08TBILISI19, TBILISI ELECTIONS UPDATE 01/04/2008

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI19 2008-01-04 14:03 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4854
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0019/01 0041403
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041403Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
INFO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8568

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 000019 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/05/2008 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: TBILISI ELECTIONS UPDATE 01/04/2008 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
----------------------------- 
Opposition--We Won't Back Down 
------------------------------ 
 
1.  (U)  On January 4, DCM, the diplomatic community, and 
ODIHR's Ambassador Boden,  met with opposition members Levan 
Gachechiladze, United Opposition Candidate, Tina Khidasheli, 
Republican Party, Salome Zourabichvili, Georgia's Way, and 
Kakha Kukava, Conservative Party.  The tone of the candidates 
suggested they are spoiling for a fight.  Gachechiladze was 
first to say that the elections have already failed, as the 
opposition has had not enough time to campaign, there is no 
media to cover them, and widespread intimidation exists. 
Khidasheli said the United National Movement some time ago 
had filed a permit for the dates January 5-14 to allow them 
to have public manifestations at Rike.  According to 
Khidasheli, the UNM plan is to hold an exit poll, declare 
victory, and then celebrate in the streets.  When this 
occurs, she vowed the United Opposition will also take to the 
streets and confront them, saying, "We won't give in on 
anything.  We will meet them action for action.  We know our 
country and we won't just let them take it." 
 
2.  (C)  Khidasheli said the problems on election day will be 
at the District Election Commissions (DECs).  In contrast to 
past elections where she alleged ballot stuffing was used, on 
January, she alleges that more sophisticated means will be 
used such as carousel voting. All political party 
representatives acknowledged that they will trust the ISFED 
parallel voter tabulation.  All of them dismissed the 
validity of an exit poll. 
 
3.  (C)  Kukava complained bitterly that all concerns the 
opposition had raised have been ignored by the 
administration.  The DCM asked if the opposition has filed 
the complaints with the Government's Interagency Task Force, 
the body which was designed to address such issues, but 
Kukava was vague in his reply. 
 
------------------------------------- 
Gachechiladze Says Elections Not Fair 
------------------------------------- 
 
4.  (U)  On January 4, Levan Gachechiladze made a public 
statement that the elections taking place in Georgia are not 
free, since the opposition does not have the same access to 
resources that Saakashvili has, opposition supporters are 
being terrorized, and black PR is being unleashed against the 
opposition.  Gachechiladze called on the international 
community not to close its eyes to this, since the West "does 
not need a Georgia where fraudulent elections occur."   He 
again called on supporters to stand "by each ballot box" and 
each precinct to ensure victory and save Georgia. 
 
---------------- 
January 6 Plans 
----------------- 
 
5.  (U)  According to news sources on January 4, the United 
Opposition is calling for a public rally on January 6 to 
directly announce to the public the results of vote results. 
Kakha Kukava said he does not trust the media to be accurate 
in the announcement of the results, and therefore, will hold 
a public forum to announce the results.  A Tbilisi 
municipality contact told us privately that the opposition 
had applied for a permit to demonstrate from 0500 on January 
6 through January 12 from Rike park to Rustaveli Avenue. 
According to news sources on January 4, the opposition has 
been denied the permit to hold a rally for the above dates on 
the grounds that the paperwork was not submitted on time.  We 
also understand the National Movement has requested a permit 
to rally at Freedom Square on January 6.  The law states that 
such requests should be filed five days prior to the 
beginning of the event. 
 
------------------------------------ 
Patriarch Plans Christmas Procession 
------------------------------------ 
 
6.  (U)  According to news sources on January 4, the 
Patriarch is organizing a Christmas procession for January 7, 
Orthodox Christmas, as part of its annual activities, on 
Rustaveli Avenue, the likely site of election demonstrations. 
 
--------------------------- 
Imedi Films on Election Day 
--------------------------- 
 
7.  (U) Vladimir Voronov, President of News Media Russia and 
 
TBILISI 00000019  002 OF 004 
 
 
a close associate of Badri Patarkatsishvili, is currently in 
Tbilisi working with Lewis Robertson, News Corp Caucasus CEO 
and Imedi General Manager, to try to assemble a staff and get 
Imedi back on the air at the soonest possible moment.  The 
journalists who left Imedi are unwilling to return, and most 
other journalists are also unwilling to work under the 
current circumstances.  Voronov was trying to assemble a 
staff and restart broadcasting before the election. 
Journalists were concerned that Patarkatsishvili would use 
Imedi to orchestrate protests.  Robertson does not feel that 
it will be possible to start broadcasting before January 7, 
but wants Imedi to play a role in reporting on the aftermath &#x
000A;of the election. 
 
8.  (U)  One large group of former Imedi investigative 
journalists now plan to form an NGO and to work as an 
independent studio to produce stories.  They will make a deal 
with Prime Time Media and the government which will permit 
them to control the content of the reporting, the government 
will guarantee placement of the product, and they will be 
able to use the Primetime (TBC) equipment.  Their wish is 
eventually to get grants to have their own independent radio. 
 Imedi will have camera crews taking footage on Election Day 
for their archives. 
 
-------------------------------------- 
CEC Promises Prompt Posting of Results 
-------------------------------------- 
 
9.  (U)  According to the Chairman of the Election Commission 
(CEC), the release of official results will be posted by 2000 
on Sunday, January 6.  The CEC is required to release the 
final results, according to the electoral code, on Sunday, 
January 13. 
 
----------------------------- 
INTERAGENCY TASK FORCE 
----------------------------- 
 
10.  (C) On January 3, DCM and other members of the 
diplomatic community met with the Interagency Task Force to 
discuss election issues.  Eka Zguladze, Deputy Minister, 
Ministry of Internal Affairs, said that they continue to 
actively investigate cases which are linked to election 
infractions.  She cited that two public servants in Adjara 
have been fired for misuse of administration resources, one 
policeman was issued a warning for his activism while on 
duty, and heavy handed United National Movement activists 
have been reprimanded.  Currently, there are 25 criminal 
cases linked to illegal election activity including three 
kidnapping cases.  Zguladze said that MOIA needs more 
information to pursue cases, and in most instances, the 
complaints they receive are too general and are without 
specific details. 
 
11.  (C)  Eka Tkeshelashvili, Minister of Justice, said that 
in the present polarized environment, emotions are running 
high and the smallest incident is blown out of proportion. 
She said she spends more time dealing with perceptions than 
reality.  She cited a recent example from David Usupashvili. 
Usupashvili alleged that a group of his activists had been 
illegally stopped by the police in Kutaisi during a rally and 
that he would provide to MOIA actual video footage to 
validate his charge.  Tkeshelashvili said that she has never 
received the video footage.  When she checked she learned 
that the alleged infraction was nothing more than a policeman 
requesting a bus load of the activists to move because it was 
blocking traffic, but that the small incident had been 
somehow dramatized into something much more. 
 
12.  (C)  With regards to police plans for Election Day, 
Zguladze said that the MOIA has no preventive plans, only 
reactive ones.  Now that the opposition plans to have their 
activists outside the precincts, she didn't want to compound 
the problem by having additional overt police presence to 
antagonize the situation.  Her biggest fear is that the 
United National Movement and the United Opposition activists 
will both take to the streets on the day after the elections, 
thereby placing the police in the awkward position of being 
in the middle of two opposing forces. 
 
13.  (C)  Zguladze said the MOIA hotline has received 640 
calls, 512 of which were complaints about the voter's list, 
31 which were general election questions, and the remainder 
were calls which were not election related.  The number of 
complaints they had been receiving about voters being asked 
for their identification numbers have significantly dropped. 
The ones which have been received recently can be linked to 
either CEC efforts to verify voter information, activists 
attempting to clarify their support base, or the government 
office requesting the information for verification of 
 
TBILISI 00000019  003 OF 004 
 
 
financial disclosure. 
 
14.  (C)  Tkeshelashvili said claims of abuse of 
administrative resources by the United National Movement's 
(UNM) use of two government helicopters are without merit. 
The UNM paid for both of these services and have provided the 
contracts as evidence of this fact. 
 
--------------- 
Badri-He's Back 
--------------- 
 
15.  (U)  On January 3, Badri Patarkatsishvili announced that 
he will not withdraw his candidacy from the presidential 
elections scheduled for January 5th.  He cited his change of 
heart to a telephone conversation with the Georgian Patriarch 
Ilia II.  In response, the Patriarch released a statement 
refuting earlier information disseminated by 
Patarkatsishvili's Office to the effect that 
Patarkatsishvili's decision to run was inspired by his 
conversation with the Patriarch.  The Patriarch's speaker 
said that the only subject of the conversation was 
congratulations on the 30th anniversary of the Patriarch's 
enthronement.  The Patriarch's speaker expressed concern that 
the church was used for political speculations. 
 
16.  (U) On January 3, Goga Zhvania resigned as 
Patarkatsishvili's campaign manager in protest of 
Patarkatsishvili's reversing directions and rejoining the 
race.  On January 4, Patarkatsishvili made a televised 
statement in which he said, "The election campaign in Georgia 
is becoming more and more similar to the election campaign in 
Pakistan, still with one difference--no candidate for the 
highest office has yet been killed in Georgia, although the 
request for assassination was placed with terrorists." 
 
-------------- 
VOTING IN GALI 
-------------- 
 
17.  (U)  According to news sources on January 3, Abkhaz de 
facto government set on fire houses of several ethnic 
Georgians who openly intend to participate in the elections 
and support Saakashvili. According to Georgian sources, 
several dozen Georgians have been detained by the Abkhaz 
police.  De facto Abkhaz foreign minister Shamba said during 
a telephone interview with the press on the subject that, "If 
Georgians want to vote in Georgia, they should go live 
there." Contrary to some media reports, UNOMIG has verified 
that the administrative borders in Gali are not closed and 
there is freedom of movement to permit voting. 
 
------------------------ 
Intimidation in Marneuli 
------------------------ 
 
18.  (C)  In a December 31 meeting with DCM and two other 
representatives from the diplomatic community, Tina 
Khidasheli and Kakha Kukava alleged wide-spread intimidation 
of voters by the local Gamgebeli (mayor's office.)  As 
evidence of their claims, they brought with them 12 witnesses 
from Marneuli and Rustavi.  The witnesses alleged that they 
had either been fired or were threatened with the possibility 
of being fired
if they did not support the National Movement. 
 
-------- 
Protests 
-------- 
 
19.  (U)  On December 29, about 5,000 people gathered at 
Rike, an open area in downtown Tbilisi, in support of Levan 
Gachechiladze, the nine-party opposition coalition 
presidential candidate.  The United Opposition alleges the 
authorities are planning to rig the elections and that the 
United Opposition will not tolerate such an action.  The 
rally promoted the theme that voters must protect their votes. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
Maisashvili Campaign Seeks Middle Ground 
---------------------------------------- 
 
20.  (SBU) We met December 28 with Giorgi Gaganidze, campaign 
manager for Giorgi Maisashvili, a former ally and economic 
advisor to Saakashvili, who is one of the lesser-known 
presidential candidates.  Gaganidze raised many of the same 
concerns about administrative resources as other opposition 
campaigns, and complained that Maisashvili was particularly 
disadvantaged because his new party was not considered to 
meet the requirements for state financing -- and therefore 
did not get free air time as most other campaigns have. 
Despite his objections to the pre-election process, Gaganidze 
 
TBILISI 00000019  004 OF 004 
 
 
stressed that his campaign was the only one that could 
conceivably "legitimize" a Saakashvili victory by accepting 
it, something he was sure other opposition campaigns would 
never do. 
 
 
 
 
TEFFT

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