07TBILISI3177, OPPOSITION GEARING UP FOR THE DAY AFTER GEORGIAN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI3177 2007-12-28 12:52 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1139
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #3177/01 3621252
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 281252Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8537
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 003177 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/26/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION GEARING UP FOR THE DAY AFTER GEORGIAN 
ELECTIONS 
 
REF: TBILISI 3161 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  As the election campaign enters its final 
week and following a series of events that have strengthened 
former president Saakashvili's bid to win the January 5 
presidential elections, it is increasingly clear that most 
opposition parties are planning not for victory on election 
day but for protests on the day after.  Until his abrupt 
withdrawal from the race on December 27, Badri 
Patarkatsishvili's campaign was the starkest voice among this 
group.  His campaign manager told us flatly that the election 
will be falsified and the Georgian people will respond. 
Others in the opposition have been less direct but 
essentially repeating the same line.  Levan Gachechiladze, 
presidential candidate of the United National Council (UNC), 
a nine party coalition of opposition parties, said publicly 
on December 26 that the opposition will not allow former 
president Saakashvili to fulfill his intentions to falsify 
the elections and prevent people from defending their votes. 
Individual parties within the United Opposition, including 
former Defense Minister Okruashvili's Movement for United 
Georgia, the Conservative Party's Kukava, and Georgia's Way 
Zourabishvili are also claiming now that the election will 
not be free and fair.  They are basing this assessment 
largely on complaints about harassment of voters and the 
voters' list.  Two political parties are striking a more 
moderate tone that is not based on calling people to the 
streets after the elections.  David Usupashvili's Republican 
Party (also part of the UNC) privately acknowledged a likely 
win by former President Saakashvili, with a view to focusing 
on the opposition's longtime goal of increasing its 
representation in Parliament.  Similarly, David Gamkrelidze's 
New Rights' Party, which did not join UNC because, in a 
speech on the Parliament floor in November, he said he would 
not join in a plan to foment revolution again in Georgia, has 
been running on a campaign promoting "stability and 
predictability."  We have consistently emphasized in every 
meeting the importance of reporting instances of concern to 
ODIHR and the Government's Task Force.  We have also called 
on all the parties to respect the result of the election if 
ODIHR concludes they were free and fair.  End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
PATARKATSISHVILI'S CAMPAIGN:  FOCUS ON THE DAY AFTER 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
2. (C) Prior to the Patarkatsisvili's sudden announcement on 
December 27 that he was withdrawing from the race, we spoke 
to his new campaign manager, Goga Zhvania, brother of the 
late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania.  (Note:  MP Galbakhiani, 
Patarkatsishvili's former campaign manager, was replaced on 
December 25 following the December 24 and 25 release of 
videotapes that allegedly revealed a planned coup against 
government.)  Despite the fact that Patarkatsishvili's 
campaign still has no official party, his campaign was 
evidently awash in money.  Unlike the headquarters of any 
other opposition party -- all of which are run down hovels in 
remote parts of town -- Patarkatsishvili's headquarters is 
located in an opulent building next to Patarkatsishvili's 
enormous residence in Tbilisi.  With an interior full of 
marble, stained glass and oil paintings, it is a beehive of 
activity and has what appears to be plenty of staff and 
supplies. 
 
3. (C) In a meeting with Poloff on December 26, Zhvania 
insisted that the Georgian election would be falsified and 
that the people of Georgia would decide how to respond.  His 
deputy claimed that he knew exactly how the election will be 
falsified -- as he was on the Central Election Commission 
from 1992-2001 and knew how it was done -- but that this 
would remain "secret."  (Note:  In a separate meeting on 
December 24 with the Ambassador, Zhvania said that the 
National Movement would use the same technique his brother 
had used.  End Note.)  When asked whether it would be better 
to publicize known ways to falsify the results, Zhvania's 
deputy said the campaign would make public what they expect a 
few days before the elections in order to limit the time in 
which the Government could find an alternative way to falsify 
the results. 
 
4. (C) Zhvania also expressed concerns about the voters' list 
and harassment of local representatives.  Poloff encouraged 
Zhvania to submit these to ODIHR and the Government Task 
Force.  He said that a formal complaint about alleged double 
listing of some 26,000 voters on the voters' list has 
languished at the CEC without response.  Zhvania said that 
the campaign is now operating in an environment of "terror," 
as officials have been arrested and questioned around the 
 
TBILISI 00003177  002 OF 004 
 
 
country after the Government's release of the video and audio 
tapes.  During the meeting, Zhvania's deputy took a call 
which he cla
imed reported on the arrest of a representative 
in Borjomi.  When asked about the tapes, he said that MP 
Galbakhiani was a victim of a government sting operation. 
 
5. (C) He assessed that the release of the tapes would have a 
negative impact on Patarkatsishvili's chances in the January 
5 election.  Poloff urged Zhvania to accept the results of 
the elections provided that ODIHR concluded it was free and 
fair.  Zhvania responded that he knew the result of the ODIHR 
report would be positive and that the election would not be 
free and fair, no matter what the reports of international 
organizations or monitors.  He doubted the neutrality of 
ODIHR assessments and said flatly that the response would be 
up to the Georgian people, not international observers or 
organizations. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
UNITED OPPOSITION:  MANY ALSO FOCUSED ON JANUARY 6 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
6. (C) In a December 21 meeting with Poloff, Chair of 
Okruashvili's Movement for a United Georgia Tortladze, said 
that it was impossible for the elections to be free and fair 
as a result of the intimidation that is taking place in the 
pre-election period.  He noted how his party's offices were 
closed by the Government in November, forcing it to take 
space in a dilapidated apartment in a hard-to-find part of 
town.  He alleged that the intimidation is worse in the 
regions.  Tortladze expressed similar concerns about the 
voters' lists which he contended had an additional one 
million voters.  Poloff urged Tortladze to report to ODIHR 
and the Government Task Force any instances of concern.  She 
also urged the party to accept the results of the election 
provided ODIHR assesses them to be free and fair.  Tortladze 
responded that people would defend their votes if the 
elections are falsified. 
 
------------------------------ 
KUKAVA DOUBTS ELECTION RESULTS 
------------------------------ 
 
7. (C)  In a December 26 meeting with DCM, Conservative Party 
Chair Kakha Kukava expressed doubts that the elections would 
be free and fair even if an ODIHR report may deem it to be 
so.  He was skeptical of ODIHR reports, saying that each 
report has the same carefully worded findings regardless of 
election atmospherics.  Kukava's main source of 
dissatisfaction was with the Central Election Commission's 
Chairman Levan Tarkhnishvili, citing him as an administration 
insider, and the makeup of the district and precinct 
electoral level commissions.  Kukava voiced his frustration 
at the majority's failure to address the opposition's 
concerns, especially the inaccuracies of the voter's list, 
and the need to do away with the additional voters lists as a 
likely source of election day fraud.  He said that the 
opposition had met with Acting President Burjanadze and 
despite her promises to address issues, there have been no 
answers forthcoming.  He repeated several times that the U.S. 
should do an exit survey and mediate between the majority and 
opposition to bring resolution to the points yet unresolved. 
He discounted the authenticity of the recently released 
recordings of Badri Patarkatsishvili and alleged it was a 
stunt by the United National Movement to bring attention to 
Saakashvili's campaign.  According to Kukava, the tapes 
solidify the United National Movement's claims that a "coup 
by dark forces" is imminent and strong measures for security 
are warranted. 
 
8. (C) Kukava repeated that the opposition would organize 
protests on January 6 if the elections results were unfair. 
He said that any protests would be peaceful, just as they 
were November 2-6, until the government forcibly broke them 
up on November 7th.  He asked how opposition members could 
remain calm when police are not punished for publicly and 
openly using excessive force.  Still, Kukava said that 
Gachechiladze and the opposition should not be associated 
with Patarkatsishvili and any attempts to forcibly change the 
government through use of force. 
 
------------------------------------ 
ZOURABISHVILI - THE SYSTEM IS ROTTEN 
------------------------------------ 
 
9.  (C)  In a December 27 meeting with the Ambassador, 
Georgia's Way Salome Zourabishvili and the Republicans' Tina 
Khidasheli said that conditions no longer exist to permit a 
free and fair election campaign in Georgia.  According to 
them both, there was no freedom of media, no campaign funds 
 
TBILISI 00003177  003 OF 004 
 
 
available, and no possibility to have an election without 
intimidation.  If before they had individual complaints about 
intimidation, now the entire system is flawed.   Both 
political representatives were critical of the lack of media 
coverage of opposition candidates, saying that even when 
Imedi was on the air, the reporting was not as it was 
previous to its forced closure on November 7.  Most of 
Zourabishvili's media complaints were linked to the 
television channels' disinterest in interviewing opposition 
candidates on substantive issues.  She complained that the 
issues that opposition candidates are called to comment on 
are not about their platforms, but about statements made by 
other newsworthy figures.  Zourabishvili said that the 
majority of the United National Movement's funding was coming 
from the country's budget and from pressure put on 
businessmen to donate.  Despite Patarkatsishvili's comments 
otherwise, she said that the opposition has not received any 
funding from the wealthy businessman. 
 
10.  (C)  Zourabishvili said that the recent release of tapes 
with Patarkatsishvili offering money to Georgian police 
official Kodua to enlist his support to foment unrest during 
the elections, was a result of collusion between 
Patarkatsishvili and Saakashvili to draw attention away from 
the opposition candidates and to the United National Movement 
(UNM), thereby validating UNM's claims that coup attempts are 
real.  Both Zourabishvili and Khidasheli raised concerns 
about CEC actions to allegedly open special PECs in Kodori 
for military voters and for police officers in Tbilisi.  They 
allege that there are no military serving in Kodori, only 
Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) troops.  With regards to 
special PECS for police on election day, they allege that 
police would vote for the UNM in the opposition stronghold 
precincts of Vake, Mtatsminda and Mtskheta, and vote again in 
their assigned precincts where they reside, thereby voting 
twice.  Still, Zourabishvili said that the opposition is 
focusing not on January, but on winning the election on 
January 5.  She discounted that other opposition members are 
planning otherwise. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
USUPASHVILI AND GAMKRELIDZE STRIKING A MORE MODERATE TONE 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
11. (C) In a December 21 meeting with Poloff, Chair of the 
Republican Party Dato Usupashvili (
please protect) assessed 
privately that the best outcome for the January 5 
presidential elections would be for former president 
Saakashvili to be elected and become a "better Saakashvili" 
as a result of the events of the fall.  He stressed that he 
could not say this publicly but that the opposition's focus 
had never been to unseat Saakashvili now but to obtain more 
seats in Parliament to have an impact on the direction of the 
Government.  Although the meeting had occurred before the 
December 24 and 25 release of video and audio tapes 
purporting to show an alleged coup plot by the 
Patarkatsisvili, Usupashvili expressed concern about 
Patarkatsishvili's impact on the elections.  He worried, for 
example, how Patarkatsishvili's party is funding election 
officials throughout the country while United Opposition 
campaigners received nothing for their work. 
 
12. (C) Separately, Usupashvili was disappointed that Acting 
President Burjanadze had not taken the opportunity to be 
neutral in the presidential race and had campaigned directly 
for former president Saakashvili.  He said that there is 
widespread intimidation against opposition party activists, 
and cited an example of a campaigner in Telavi who lost his 
railroad job when his boss found out about his activities as 
representative of a wider effort being conducted by police 
and others nationwide.  Poloff encouraged Usupashvili to 
raise the issue with ODIHR and the Government Task Force.  He 
was frustrated that neither Acting President Burjanadze nor 
Minister of Internal Affairs Merabishvili had agreed to the 
opposition request to make a clear, public statement that any 
attempt at coercion or intimidation of voters would be 
investigated and prosecuted.  Although he said the Government 
could not control every individual, he believed that such a 
public statement would make clear the Government's position 
and cut down on such incidents.  He denied reports that the 
opposition was refusing to meet with the Government's Task 
Force but said that the opposition had not been informed of 
the last meeting. 
 
13. (C) In a December 27 meeting with Poloff, political 
advisor for Davit Gamkrelidze's New Rights Party Shalva 
Pichkhadze assessed bluntly that Saakashvili would win by a 
landslide.  He believed the UNC, with its sloppy attempt to 
bring out supporters to overthrow the Government in November, 
had handed Saakashvili a second term in office.  Pichkhadze 
 
TBILISI 00003177  004 OF 004 
 
 
said bluntly that Georgia needs no more revolutions but that 
the other pro-Western parties were not a strong enough 
alternative to Saakashvili.  They needed help to become 
stronger.  He lamented that everyone from the opposition 
funds their campaigns from their personal resources.  When 
asked about UNM, he told a story of a relative outside 
Tbilisi who relayed receiving pressure from an UNM official 
to contribute 100,000 GEL to UNM or "receive the financial 
police tomorrow."  Pichkhadze said his relative paid the 
money and still will vote for Saakashvili.  He said that 
Georgians simply did not understand democracy - what it means 
to be free - and will choose a bad known for a potentially 
worse unknown.  Still, he believed that the focus of the 
opposition should be on gaining enough seats in Parliament to 
better balance political power in Georgia. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
14. (C) For many in the opposition, all rationality has gone 
and the clear goal is revolution.  As one observer noted, 
Georgia has only known revolution, and when the parties do 
not receive the results they want, it is to revolution that 
they turn.  Some of the opposition concerns ring true, 
especially when they are reported across the country.  We are 
particularly concerned with what appear to be credible 
reports of problems in the pre-election period which are 
giving an advantage to Saakashvili.  We have and will 
continue to raise them with the Government.  Still, 
Saakashvili was and remains a popular figure, especially in 
the regions.  And Georgia needs to get beyond moving from 
revolution to revolution to become a stronger and more 
resilient democracy where election results are deemed fair 
and accepted by all parties.  We will continue to support 
free and fair elections and press this message to all parties 
involved. 
 
 
 
TEFFT

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