07TBILISI3080, TBILISI ELECTION UPDATE, 12/12/07

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3080 2007-12-12 11:25 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9790
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #3080/01 3461125
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 121125Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8425
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 003080 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/CARC AND EUR/DAS BRYZA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/12/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: TBILISI ELECTION UPDATE, 12/12/07 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
------------------------------------------ 
Imedi to Begin Broadcasting on December 12 
------------------------------------------ 
 
1. (U)  Imedi is due to begin broadcasting December 12 with 
the Kronika program, beginning at 8 p.m. Tbilisi time.  The 
Imedi staff report that one entire control room at Imedi is 
out of commission and phone and internet access was severely 
damaged, with only 15 of their former 150 telephone lines 
currently working.  The general director is in London 
purchasing needed equipment. 
 
2. (U) Lewis Robertson, Imedi General Manager and CEO of News 
Corp Caucasus, said the government has been responsive and 
reasonable about paying for all of the damage, although some 
minor details are being worked out.  It is expected that the 
agreement that has been worked out between the Prime Minister 
and Imedi to pay for all damages will be signed around 5 
January.  Imedi is still concerned, however, that when it 
re-applies for its license in April 2008, it will face some 
challenges. 
 
------------------------------------- 
CEC REPORTS ON ELECTION PREPARATIONS, 
CANDIDATE IMMUNITY, BIPARTISANSHIP 
------------------------------------- 
 
3. (U) Levan Tarkhnishvili, Chairman of the Central Election 
Commission, briefed the diplomatic corps in Tbilisi on 
December 10 in the company of 10 other members of the 
Commission, including representatives of the opposition 
parties.  Tarkhnishvili said that the CEC's immediate goals 
are to improve the quality of the voters' list, facilitate 
credible election day registration for those voters who miss 
the deadline for adding their names to the voters' list, 
informing the public about voting procedures, registration of 
foreign and domestic election observers and the media, and 
providing election-related information in Armenian and Azeri 
languages and for disabled and blind voters. 
 
4. (U) The CEC is sending canvassers door to door to sign up 
voters.  Voters can check that they are properly registered 
on the internet, by SMS or in person.  Registration closes 
December 12.  After that, voters can register at the polls, 
but only with presentation of a valid voter registration 
card.   The CEC is sponsoring advertisements that explain 
voting procedures and tell voters where their home precincts 
are.  After the elections, the CEC intends to publish 
preliminary results within 48 hours and final results in 3-5 
days. 
 
5. (U) Asked by a British lawyer whether the government would 
grant immunity from criminal prosecution to all candidates 
(which is of special interest to Badri Patarkatsishvili), 
Tarkhnishvili refused to promise immunity categorically, 
saying the decision did not entirely rest with him.  (Note: 
the election law states that a candidate shall not be 
detained, arrested or searched without the consent of the 
CEC, but makes no mention of continued investigation or 
prosecutorial activity not involving arrest or detention. 
Other Georgian officials have indicated that prosecutions of 
candidates such as Patarkatsishvili or Shalva Natelashvili 
would not be halted, although the candidates personally would 
remain free during the campaign.) 
 
6. (U) Asked about the atmosphere within the CEC, which for 
the first time has members from the major opposition parties, 
the opposition members said generally they are pleased with 
their additional seats and that open discussion is the rule. 
Tarkhnishvili said he was worried about how the system would 
work, fearing the CEC's work would be overly politicized. 
However, although there were disagreements, he felt the CEC 
is "working in a normal way."  The Labor Party member agreed 
with Tarkhnishvili's assessment, but claimed that no 
opposition party member has been chosen to head any of the 
3500 or so Precinct Election Commissions. 
 
----------------------------- 
MOIA Addresses the Rumor Mill 
----------------------------- 
 
7. (U)  Ekaterine Zguladze, Deputy Minister of Internal 
Affairs (MOIA), sent a letter to Ambassador stating that MOIA 
has established a special pre-election hotline.  In her 
letter she notes that the objective of this initiative is to 
address all questions and queries that citizens have with 
respect to police activities and violations of their 
authority during pre-election activities.  This move was in 
response to a meeting between Minister of Internal Affairs 
 
TBILISI 00003080  002 OF 002 
 
 
Merabishvili and ambassadors last week. 
 
8.  (C)  In a separate meeting on December 12 with Poloff, 
Zguladze said the Acting President has established a council 
made up of representatives from the different ministries to 
address pre-election issues with the OSCE/ODIHR Election 
Monitoring Team in twice weekly meetings.  She plans to 
address the issues of misuse of administrative resources, 
rumors about opposition members being denied office space in 
the regions, and rumo
rs of police harassment.  She stated 
that the Georgian Election Code is quite specific about what 
constitutes misuse.  The Government will give the legal basis 
for its reasoning to the ODIHR team.  Zguladze said that the 
Transparency International Report (released last week) is not 
factual in this regard and standards other than the Georgian 
Election Code are not lawful nor applicable.  She refuted the 
claim that opposition parties are being denied office space 
in the regions by the majority.  She said that the specific 
incident which triggered the complaint was that the 
opposition party chose office space where the National 
Movement had already established residency, and an argument 
ensued over how and where to display the party flags. 
Zguladze said that the incident snow-balled into something 
larger afterward.  Zguldaze said the MOIA is investigating 
actual instances of criminal abuse, but complained that few 
have facts upon which to launch an investigation.  Poloffs 
urged the Government to stay in close contact with the ODIHR 
team and to respond quickly to issues raised, including 
especially the use of administrative resources and 
allegations of harassment. 
 
9.  (C)  Separately, Zguladze said the MOIA is investigating 
approximately 30 policemen for use of excessive force during 
the November 7 protest and that these investigations should 
be complete by the end of December.  Any findings in these 
instances would result in administrative actions, such as 
warnings, suspensions, or fines.  She said the Prosecutor's 
Office is pursuing additional criminal cases against 
policemen.  Of the three policemen who were seriously 
wounded, one of the stabbing victims most likely will not be 
able to return to police work.  Poloffs urged the MOIA to 
conclude the investigations quickly.  When asked about MOIA 
plans for any protests on January 6, she said she knew people 
were discussing this issue.  She worried that any protests on 
January 6, would put police in the unenviable position of 
being caught between pro-Saakashvili and pro-opposition 
supporters. 
 
----------------------- 
IDPs' Debts Written Off 
----------------------- 
 
10.  (U)  The Georgian government has announced plans to 
restructure electricity and natural gas debts owned by 
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), mostly from Abkhazia, 
who are living in collective centers.  The electricity debt 
covers the period 1999-March 2007 for those residing in 
Tbilisi and 1999-July 2007 for those who reside in the 
regions. The natural gas debt covers the period from 
1999-March 2006.  The total debt being written off is 50 
million GEL. 
 
----------------------------------- 
Presidential Candidates on the Move 
----------------------------------- 
 
11.  (U)  The Presidential candidates are making their 
presence known in Tbilisi and the regions.  Below a recap of 
their recent activities. 
 
- Saakashvili, National Movement Candidate, held meetings in 
the ethnic Azeri region of Kvemo Kartli to pledge his support 
to address social problems in the minority regions. 
 
- Natelashvili Labor Party Candidate, briefed the diplomatic 
corps on his platform on December 11. He also met with 
Russian Ambassador Kovlenko.  In a separate meeting, 
Natelashvili promised to return bank deposits bank to voters 
which they lost after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 
 
- Gachechiladze, United Opposition Candidate, visited the 
Kakheti region in Eastern Georgia and familiarized locals 
with his election platform.  Gachechiladze has pledged that 
he will ensure that the Russian embargo is lifted. This is a 
particularly relevant issue to most in Kakheti, a region 
where grapes are cultivated and harvested for wine export. 
 
- Gamkrelidze, New Rights Candidate, met with members of the 
society of the blind and has promised them an exemption from 
land tax should he be elected. 
TEFFT

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