07TBILISI3099, GEORGIA: ELECTION CAMPAIGNS OF

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3099 2007-12-14 12:22 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

R 141222Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8447
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS TBILISI 003099 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
STATE FOR EUR/CARC AND EUR/FO 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KBIO PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: ELECTION CAMPAIGNS OF 
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary: On December 11, the Central Election 
Commission (CEC) released the final list of the seven 
registered candidates for the January 5 pre-term 
presidential elections.  Several candidates, however, 
have been actively campaigning for as long as a week, 
meeting daily with Tbilisi residents and travelling to 
the regions to gain votes.  Most campaign promises 
address pressing social issues but few candidates have 
laid out concrete plans on how to implement their 
programs.  The ordinary voter may find it difficult 
to differentiate between each party's platforms, but 
there are differences among the campaign strategies. 
Saakashvili's campaign strategy, with the strongest 
political machine behind it, has been the most effective 
at communicating the National Movement platform and 
emphasizing past party successes.  On the other hand, 
United National Council of opposition (UNC) candidate 
Levan Gachechiladze's campaign has primarily focused on 
attacking the National Movement instead of developing a 
platform of constructive ideas that appeal widely to the 
Georgian people.  End Summary. 
 
2.(U) A snap-shot of Mikheil Saakashvili 
(National Movement), Levan Gachechiladze (United 
National Council of opposition), Davit Gamkrelidze 
(New Rightists), Shalva Natelashvili (Labor Party), and 
Gia Maisahvili's (Party for Future) campaigns are outlined 
below. Badri Patarkatsishvili and Irina Sarishvili 
(Party of Hope) have not launched their campaigns yet. 
 
Mikheil Saakashvili, National Movement 
-------------------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) Mikheil Saakashvili has focused on the number 
five, his assigned number as a candidate, which he notes is an 
"excellentQ grade in Georgian schools and the date of 
the election falling on the fifth of January.  Saakashvili's 
campaign is displaying the number 5 against a red-and-white 
background, evoking the Georgian flag which was established 
by the National Movement after the Rose Revolution.  To 
bring his point home, Saakashvili has even taken to wearing 
a red turtleneck during his campaign appearances. 
 
4.(SBU) Saakashvili's latest campaign slogan is 
"Georgia without poverty."  In recent public 
appearances, Saakashvili has stressed that, 
if elected, poverty will be eradicated throughout 
Georgia.  In one speech, Saakashvili said 
"I want to get the votes of the people who 
live in the most dire conditions. I want to 
represent the most vulnerable."  This laconic 
slogan is being reinforced by numerous new government 
initiatives which the government claims were in the works 
before the announcement of the pre-term presidential 
elections, although there were not budgetary allocations 
for them at the time the election was called. 
These social programs are designed to improve the 
social conditions of pensioners, teachers, internally 
displaced people (IDPs), and small business owners. 
Saakashvili's response to charges he should have 
begun these social programs before the election (or even 
before the November protests) has been to point 
out that the government was busy building roads, 
providing a steady supply of electricity, and 
fighting criminals and corruption.  He defended his 
timing by saying "jobs cannot be created without 
building a state."  Saakashvili's public speeches 
are often attended by prominent members of government 
(and members of his party) such as the Mayor of Tbilisi 
and the Minister of Refugees, whose presence lends 
credibility to his campaign promises.   Though the 
government officials can legally participate in 
Saakashvili's campaign events, the opposition has 
strongly objected to their participation as bad form. 
 
5. (SBU) Saakashvili's new focus on poverty also resonates with prior 
campaign slogans---"Georgia without Shevardnadze," "Georgia without 
Abashidze," "Georgia without power shortages," and "Georgia without 
criminals.Q   Saakashvili has effectively used these slogans to remind 
the voter of the government's successes.  Saakashvili often uses 
schools, sports grounds, and industrial facilities as the venues for 
his widely televised public appearances, where he emphasizes school 
renovations, new soccer fields, and the conclusion of the agreement on 
the new Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku railway  project Q some of the 
most visible Qsuccess storiesQ of his administration.  These venues 
often are staged with large television screens and large crowds. 
 
6. (SBU) One of the strongest aspects of Saakashvili's campaign is his 
outreach to Georgia's ethnic minorities.   On the day of the UNM party 
congress, Saakashvili said "If there is a need, I will 
 
 
be Armenian; if there is a need, I will be Azeri; if there is a need I 
will be Ossetian." This week Saakashvili addressed huge crowds of 
supporters in the Azeri-populated towns of Kvemo Kartli in Azeri, 
Georgian, and Russian. 
This aspect of SaakashviliQs campaign contrasts 
with those of opposition candidates, who so far, 
have reached out more to Georgian Orthodox believers. 
 
Levan Gachechiladze, United National Cou
ncil of Opposition (UNC) 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
 
7. (U) Levan Gachechiladze, presidential candidate for the United 
National Council of Opposition (UNC), is campaigning under the CEC- 
allotted number one -- which he says was "given to him by God, as a 
sign of victory."  Gachechiladze's campaign symbol is a white 
tie, and white -- --"the color of purity" -- is the "colorQ of his 
campaign. 
 
8. (U) Gachechiladze's campaigning under the slogan "Georgia in the 
First Place" -- an allusion to traditional Georgian values, and in 
direct opposition to Saakashvili's Qcosmopolitanism.Q  Gachechiladze, 
permanently flanked by leaders of the nine parties which form the UNC, 
has focused his campaign in Tbilisi's  "working class" districts 
including Isani, Samgori, Varketili and others, even though he is a 
majoritarian MP from the elite Vake district. 
 
9. (SBU) Gachechiladze's public speeches are often brusque and he uses 
harsh language during campaign events, even resorting to cursing when 
speaking about Saakashvili.  Gachechiladze has also been antagonistic 
toward media: even when asked general questions, he responds 
condescendingly to journalists.  Gachechiladze also has had trouble 
articulating his position on various issues during his campaign. 
GachechiladzeQs fellow opposition leaders regularly threaten that if 
QSaakashvili dares to rig the elections," they, along with other 
opposition candidates will "stand together on January 6 to protect the 
Georgian people's votes." 
 
10.  (U) One of Gachechiladze's central messages to Tbilisi 
residents is that Georgia should no longer be the country of 
cheap workers and cheap products, but should become "a base 
for providing valuable products."  He has also promised 
"a big amnesty" for inmates unjustly imprisoned.  Gachechiladze 
has visited the wine-producing Kakheti region, emphasizing 
his business experience in wine-making and rapport 
with Kakheti farmers. 
 
David Gamkrelidze -- New Rightists leader 
----------------------------------------- 
 
11.  (SBU) Well-groomed and well-spoken, David Gamkrelidze contrasts 
with "less polished" Gachechiladze, and, as he points out himself, his 
"style is very different."   However, Gamkrelidze's is not above 
aggressively attacking Saakashvili.  Gamkrelidze's campaign is not 
marked by any particular symbolism, and in his current campaign 
speeches he has avoided any reference to the main symbol of his 
presidential platform -- the church.  However, the theme of the 
Georgian Orthodox Church is almost always present, and Gamkrelidze is 
often shown on TV within various church settings.  (GamkrelidzeQs 
recent devoutness may raise an eyebrow of those who remember or know 
about his student activities within the soviet Komsomol structure) 
 
12. (U) The more mundane issues of Gamkrelidze's campaign are improving 
the business environment and human rights.   Both in Tbilisi and in the 
regions, Gamkrelidze stresses that if elected, he will liberate 
Georgian business from state interference, reduce taxes, and create 
barriers to low-quality imported goods in order to boost domestic 
production.   Earlier, Gamkrelidze had underscored the inviolability of 
private property, but now his campaign is focused on fundamental human 
rights and freedoms. While visiting Irakli Batiashvili -- leader of the 
opposition movement Go Ahead Georgia imprisoned last year for giving 
intellectual support to a rebel local warlord in the Kodori Gorge -- 
Gamkrelidze made the point that Georgia does have prisoners of 
conscience. 
 
13. (U) As a medical doctor by background, Gamkrelidze is especially 
campaigning with medical professionals and researchers.  He has also 
reached out to narrower segments of society, including the Society of 
the Blind, offering an exemption of the land tax for members. 
 
Shalva Natelashvili Q Labor Party leader 
---------------------------------------- 
14.  (U) Shalva NatelashviliQs campaign, focused primarily in Tbilisi, 
and usually presented against the background of red-and-blue Labor 
flags, is built on three platforms:  the assertion that Saakashvili is 
a QterroristQ and QrobberQ of the Georgian peopleQs assets; 
Natelashvili, as a victim of SaakashviliQs regime; and extensive 
socialist promises to the Georgian people.  Recently, Natelashvili in 
his campaign speeches has promised to provide free education, free 
medical service, exemption from electricity and natural gas bills, and 
to return bank deposits lost during the dissolution of the Soviet 
 
 
Union.  Natelashvili claims the financial burden of these initiatives 
will be carried by Georgian businesses, which in turn will receive 
significant tax privileges.  The impression is that the Labor leader is 
competing against an unsubstantiated but widely circulated rumor that 
business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili intends to pay the utility bills 
for all Georgians. 
 
Gia Maisashvili Q the Party of the Future 
----------------------------------------- 
 
15.  (U) Gia Maisashvili's campaign is the most modest so far.  Limited 
to door-to-door campaigning and small meetings with students and 
academia, Maisashvili is promoting a knowledge-based society built on 
liberal values.  When asked about the main feature of MaisashviliQs 
campaign, one of his supporters, highlighted Qkindness.Q 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
16. (SBU) The sense of the Georgian people is that Saakashvili's 
promises of social reform will disappear after the elections but the 
opposition candidates have offered few realistic alternatives to the 
voter.  One essential feature uniting all of the candidate's platforms 
and campaign efforts is an uncertainty about the outcome.  While 
Saakashvili's camp believes his victory is guaranteed, the opposition 
is similarly convinced of their ability to win enough votes in the 
first round to force a second round election (if the election is free 
and fair).  The opposition has claimed a first round win by Saakashvili 
will likely have been orchestrated by the government.  Without accurate 
polling, it is unclear how the election will go, but campaigning 
continues in an effort to swing the large group of undecided voters. 
 
TEFFT

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