08TBILISI37, ALL ELECTIONS ALL THE TIME: PAS-TBILISI GOES ALL OUT IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI37 2008-01-10 15:46 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSI #0037/01 0101546
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 101546Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8589
INFO RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV 0058
RUEHYE/AMEMBASSY YEREVAN 2243
RUEHKB/AMEMBASSY BAKU 1963
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 8131

UNCLAS TBILISI 000037 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR EUR/PPD AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: OIIP SCUL KPAO GG
SUBJECT: ALL ELECTIONS ALL THE TIME: PAS-TBILISI GOES ALL OUT IN 
SUPPORT OF GEORGIAN ELECTIONS 
 
1.  Summary.  On November 8, in an effort to resolve a growing 
political crisis in the country, President Saakashvili proposed snap 
presidential elections for January 5.  PAS-Tbilisi sat down as a 
section to brainstorm and develop a robust series of public 
diplomacy programs to support the elections within this very tight 
timeframe.  PAS programming involved every person in the PD section, 
and focused on outreach to youth; the regions and ethnic minorities; 
journalists and the media; and the academic elite in the way PD does 
best; namely, through people-to-people interaction.  From activities 
at American Corners; information outreach through the IRC; 
English-language teaching modules; a televised mock presidential 
debate for youth; digital video conferences (DVCs) with U.S. foreign 
policy experts; a speaker program on media ethics; alumni webchats 
and internet fora; election information outreach in Azeri, Armenian, 
Russian and Ossetian languages; and PAS support for Embassy 
pre-election circuit rider trips and election-day monitoring 
throughout Georgia, PAS carried out a wide spectrum of targeted 
programming.  We will now fine tune our programming and start 
gearing up to support Georgia's parliamentary elections this spring. 
End Summary. 
 
A LITTLE BACKROUND 
------------------ 
2.  The demonstrations and opposition protests in early November 
2007, and the government crack-down that followed, exposed divisions 
in Georgian society.  The January elections were hotly contested and 
represented the first modern opportunity for Georgians to settle 
their differences democratically and experience the first regular 
transition of power.  Many areas of Georgian society had particular 
concerns in this election campaign. The elite were divided; the 
media were challenged to develop as a free and independent voice for 
the country; minority populations in the country and people living 
in the regions often felt that Tbilisi was ignoring their concerns; 
and youth seemed uninterested in the campaign. 
 
3.  The excessively politicized role of the media was also a central 
concern in Georgia.  On November 7, when the Government of Georgia 
used force to disband protests, the Government shut down Imedi 
television for a month, and imposed a state of emergency which 
banned all independent news reporting, except by the Government 
station.    Meanwhile, the other national stations are either 
government owned or strongly pro-government in their editorial 
policy. 
 
"NOW I UNDERSTAND WHY ELECTIONS ARE IMPORTANT" - YOUTH OUTREACH 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
4.  PAS identified three primary ways of targeting the youth of 
Georgia to increase interest in the election campaign and political 
issues in general: web-chats involving US exchange program alumni, 
English language modules focused on elections for use in schools, 
and a televised mock presidential debate held on a popular 
television youth show. 
 
5. FLEX, UGRAD, and Muskie alumni participated in three on-line 
election-related web chats organized by IREX's Internet Access and 
Training Program (IATP).  Five of the seven presidential candidates 
participated, and alumni were able to ask questions, 140 in total, 
on such topics as presidential candidates political platforms, 
poverty reduction, social programs of each presidential candidate, 
election rules and procedures, conflict resolution and civic 
integration issues, educational reform and other current issues. 
FLEX alumni also organized meetings with three of the candidates. 
The Georgian Institute for Public Administration (GIPA), a PAS 
grantee institution, also organized public fora on the elections. 
Over 100 students, professors, and prominent Georgian journalists 
attended the meetings with presidential candidates organized by 
GIPA.  GIPA Radio interviewed each presidential candidate and posted 
the interviews on the GIPA Radio website 
(http://www.gipa.ge/radio/index_en.php).    The meetings were 
 
covered by all major Georgian TV stations.  The Rustavi 2 weekly 
show "PS" dedicated special news coverage to the meetings at GIPA. 
Alumni mentioned that the meetings with presidential candidates were 
very informative and they had a rare opportunity to ask questions. 
 
6.  Working with the English Teachers Association of Georgia (ETAG), 
English teachers were encouraged to develop special classroom 
modules on the elections.  PAO attended election-related lessons in 
four different schools where interactive, participatory classroom 
discussion focused on what characteristics a president should have 
(religious, patriotic, self-controlled, well-educated, etc.); on 
teamwork devoted to developing party platforms; and on mock 
campaigns.  Student interest was high, and the rectors and invited 
guests sat in on the classes.  French-German television, ARTE, 
serendipitously covered one such class session after overhearing the 
teacher talk about it at an internet cafe. 
 
7.
 PAS worked with the producer and moderators of Kedeli, the most 
 
popular television program for youth in Georgia, to host a mock 
presidential debate.   Four "candidates" ran for office, including 
one of the regular Kedeli hosts, identified by color to avoid any 
association with any specific candidate.  Candidates presented 
themselves to the audience by means of brief videos and platform 
statements, and took a number of questions from the studio audience. 
 A U.S. Fulbrighter, and certified debate coach, prepared them for 
the debate and acted as the debate moderator, using the opportunity 
to discuss the rules and format of debates, before the studio 
audience voted.  During the taping, even the camera crew was 
transfixed by the process and crowded in the wings of the studio to 
watch the proceedings. (PAO overheard them asking each other, "Who 
won," when the vote tally was announced.) The program received a 
large number of SMS messages while on air which the station scrolled 
along the bottom of the screen, including "Now I understand why 
elections are so important."  The producer termed the show "one of 
our best projects this year." 
 
GETTING OUT TO THE REGIONS AND MINORITY OUTREACH 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
8.  PAS joined Pol-Econ staff on circuit rider teams to five cities 
in the regions of Georgia to survey the pre-election situation.  PAS 
staff assisted in gathering information on the state of the regional 
media, arranged media interviews, and coordinated speaking 
opportunities on election themes at American Corners and American 
Study Centers. Analysis of the local media was particular useful in 
evaluating election campaigning in the regions in terms of balance 
in reporting and equal media access for all candidates.  PAS staff 
also served as election monitors throughout Georgia on election day. 
 
 
9.  The regions of southern Georgia that have large Armenian and 
Azeri populations were identified as a particular concern due to the 
lack of information in the languages they understand and a Russian 
nourished traditional distrust to the prospect of Georgia's 
integration into western institutions.  There is less connection to 
the central government and some hostility towards NATO and Georgia's 
westward integration.  PAS worked with the Central Election 
Commission (CEC) to translate brochures and posters on the voting 
process into Armenian, Azerbaijani, and even Ossetian and Russian, 
and coordinated the distribution of these materials with the CEC. 
President Saakashvili attributed the high voter  turnout in those 
regions to the voter's education campaign which we participated in. 
 
REACHING A BROADER AUDIENCE 
--------------------------- 
10.  PAS used the pre-election period to roll out a more invigorated 
electronic outreach program through our IRC, the American Center for 
Information Resources (ACIR).  In order to reach both the broadest 
possible audience and to expand our client base, the ACIR began a 
systematic electronic campaign to share information broadly 
connected to elections with PAS contacts including media members, 
think tank members academics and civil servants.  This included 
analytical pieces on the American elections, articles on how debates 
are run, as well as information related to NATO, and the possible 
independence of Kosovo (an issue of great interest to Georgians 
since in comments to the press the Russian government has explicitly 
connected Kosovo to the break-away regions of Abkhazia and South 
Ossetia in Georgia, threatening to recognize the seperatist regions 
if Kosovo is recognized). 
 
11.  On December 31, 2007 PAS placed an op-ed under Assistant 
Secretary Daniel Fried's signature in the weekly "Kviras Palitra," 
 
SIPDIS 
Georgia's most popular newspaper.  The op-ed was picked up by two 
national television stations, which highlighted Fried's key points 
that the elections must be free and fair, that the losers must 
accept the results, that Georgia's NATO aspirations are tied to this 
election, and that the winners must deliver good governance. 
Tensions in the pre-election period have been high.  Fried's 
statement helped defuse this and refocus the debate, and reminded 
Georgians of the possibilities democratic elections offer.  Fried is 
perceived in Georgia as balanced and insightful; his op-ed presented 
to Georgian audiences a deeper understanding of the broader context 
of the elections. 
 
EQUIPPING THE MEDIA 
------------------- 
12.  In order to address the perceived pro-government bias in the 
broadcast media, PAS brought Dr. William Silcock, an Arizona State 
University Professor of Journalism, to Tbilisi to speak on media 
ethics in election campaigns. To maximize his influence, Dr. Silcock 
was brought directly into the newsrooms of the two most popular 
remaining national channels - Rustavi 2 and Public Television. He 
was given unprecedented access to Rustavi 2 and worked with editors, 
producers, and their website coordinator to train them on how 
elections are covered in the US and how to provide balanced 
analysis.  For example he taught journalists how U.S. journalists 
 
will regularly "fact-check" claims that appear in politicians 
advertisements.  Rustavi-2 has already asked PAS to bring him back 
to work with them prior to the spring parliamentary elections. 
 
REACHING THE ELITES IN GEORGIA 
------------------------------ 
13.  In order to reach the media and academic elite of Georgia, PAS 
held two Digital Video Conferences with political analysts from the 
United States.  Over 60 academics, think-tank and NGO leaders, 
Muskie alumni and journalists participated in the two DVCs organized 
with Dr. Cory Welt of Georgetown University and with former 
Ambassador to Belarus and Georgia Dr. Kenneth Yalowitz, now the head 
of Dartmouth University's Dickey Center for International 
Understanding.  The DVCs allowed for extensive and wide-ranging 
discussion and questions on the importance of the upcoming election, 
Georgia's chances for NATO membership, Georgian-Russian relations, 
and likely developments in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Both DVCs 
were reported in local newspapers and on the radio.  Participants 
expressed great interest in further DVCs, some even suggesting a 
monthly DVC on such topics. 
 
TEFFT

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