08TBILISI20, SAAKASHVILI LIKELY TO WIN (BUT NOT OVERWHELMINGLY)

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI20 2008-01-04 14:11 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4867
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0020/01 0041411
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 041411Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8572
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000020 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/04/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: SAAKASHVILI LIKELY TO WIN (BUT NOT OVERWHELMINGLY) 
IN THE FIRST ROUND 
 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  As the country gears up for presidential 
elections on January 5, the polls are unreliable and all over 
the map.  Those commissioned by the opposition show former 
president Saakashvili not gaining enough votes to obtain a 
first round victory; those commissioned by the ruling United 
National Movement (UNM) show just the opposite.  Importantly, 
almost all the polls were conducted prior to the Government's 
December 24 and 25 release of tapes allegedly revealing a 
coup plot by presidential candidate and business tycoon Badri 
Patarkatsisvili.  We believe these have turned the tide in 
Saakashvili's favor, as indicated by the only post-coup plot 
poll we have heard about from an UNM source.  Still, we 
believe his margin of victory will be significantly less than 
it was for the local elections, where the UNM, with 
Saakashvili leading the charge, garnered 76 percent of the 
vote nationwide.   This time, we believe, Saakashvili will 
garner enough votes (50 percent plus one) to win the election 
in the first round but his percentage will likely be in the 
55-60 percent range.  End summary. 
 
THE UNDECIDEDS WILL DECIDE IT 
----------------------------- 
 
2. (C) As the country gears up for presidential elections on 
January 5, we offer our best guess on the results.  The polls 
are unreliable and all over the map.  Those commissioned by 
the opposition show former president Saakashvili not gaining 
enough to win a first round victory; those commissioned by 
the ruling party show just the opposite.  The most 
interesting aspect of all the polls is their common 
denominator:  a large number (some 25 percent) of undecided 
voters.  The key to who wins this election will be whoever 
captures this vote.  Although many assume that these votes 
would go to the opposition -- why else would not people 
declare their voting intention -- all but one of the polls 
were conducted prior to the Government's December 24 and 25 
release of tapes allegedly revealing a coup plot by 
presidential candidate and business tycoon Badri 
Patarkatsisvili.  We believe these have turned the tide in 
Saakashvili's favor, as most Georgians were shocked and 
revolted by an alleged plot to overthrow the government by 
force.  This is borne out by the results of the one post-coup 
plot poll we know about from an UNM source. 
 
3. (C)  There are other factors that we believe will benefit 
Saakashvili on election day:  the weakness of the other 
opposition candidates, the continuing popularity of 
Saakashvili in the regions, and the strong organizational 
advantage of the ruling UNM which has done more than any 
other party to advertise and get out the vote.  A huge snow 
storm that hit the country today will also likely give an 
edge to Saakashvili and his party's superior organization. 
Still, the events of November have had a negative impact on 
Saakashvili's overall popularity.  We believe that his margin 
of victory will be significantly less than it was for the 
local elections, where the UNM, with Saakashvili leading the 
charge, garnered 76 percent of the vote nationwide.  This 
time, we believe, Saakashvili will garner enough votes (50 
percent plus one) to win the election in the first round but 
his percentage will likely be in the 55-60 percent range. 
 
 
MONITORING REPORTS CRUCIAL TO PUBLIC OPINION - AND REACTION 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
 
4. (C)  Public opinion, and more importantly, public 
reaction, to the election results will be largely dependent 
upon the reports of independent observers, including 
especially the OSCE's Election Observer Mission report.  If 
the report says that the elections were fundamentally free 
and fair, we believe that the opposition will not be able to 
mobilize large numbers of people to take to the streets. 
However, if the report says that the election was not free 
and fair or did not represent the will of the people, then we 
could be in a different situation.  We expect the report to 
state generally that the elections were "free and fair, but." 
 On the positives, we expect the report to note that the 
elections were well administered, that it was the first 
competitive election in Georgian history, that the election 
registration was inclusive and that there were a wide variety 
of views shown on television.  On the negatives, we expect 
the report to note a blurring of the use of administrative 
resources in the campaign, some cases of intimidation of 
voters, bias on the television in favor of Saakashvili, and 
the fact that the Central Election Commission voted along 
party lines. 
 
 
 
TBILISI 00000020  002 OF 002 
 
 
OTHER OUTCOMES - ALL LESS CLEAR 
------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Any other outcome than a Saakashvili win that is 
considered representative of the will of the people is less 
clear.  A Saakashvili loss in the first round could have one 
of two outcomes,
 either the opposition would rally together 
and in the win-lose atmosphere of Caucasian politics 
Saakashvili will be seen as weakened and potentially lose a 
second round vote or the public (with lots of pressure from 
ruling party enforcers) would ultimately come together behind 
Saakashvili.  Either way, going to a second round would start 
a longer, and possibly protracted, period of uncertainty in 
Georgian politics.  We believe that the public perception of 
the first round as well as the fast-changing events that 
characterize Georgian political life will have a big impact 
on who would win a second round, should one be required.  It 
is simply to early to tell but Saakashvili would not be 
guaranteed a second round victory. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
6. (C) Ultimately, these elections will help Georgia deepen 
its democratic roots.  We believe it is time for Georgia to 
stop moving from revolution to revolution and to have an 
election that peacefully transfers power or reinforces the 
leadership of the country.  We think that most Georgians also 
want this too, as evidenced by the largely negative reaction 
to the release of the Patarkatsisvili tapes.  There remains a 
small but vocal contingent, however, which is planning to 
call demonstrations no matter what the election result or the 
assessment of the international monitors.  It is this factor 
that we will watch closely (and try to influence) as 
Georgians go to the polls January 5. 
TEFFT

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