08TBILISI52, SAAKASHVILI WINS A SECOND TERM IN GEORGIAN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI52 2008-01-14 15:19 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1509
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0052/01 0141519
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 141519Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8608
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000052 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR A/S FRIED, DAS BRYZA AND EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/11/2018 
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: SAAKASHVILI WINS A SECOND TERM IN GEORGIAN 
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  On January 13, the Central Election 
Commission announced the final results of the January 5 
presidential elections.  Former president Saakashvili 
received 53.47% of the vote, giving him a narrow win on the 
first round.  Leader of the 9-party opposition coalition 
Levan Gechachiladze took second with 25.69% of the vote. 
Badri Patarkatsishvili, charged with plotting a coup against 
the government, came in third with 7.1% of the vote.  With 
regard to the two plebiscites:  72.5% of Georgians favor NATO 
membership and 69.8% of Georgians voted for parliamentary 
elections in the spring.  Despite some clear improvements 
over previous elections, this election included some 
potentially serious irregularities.  They fell broadly into 
three groups:  protocols from election observers which did 
not match the protocols posted on the CEC website, isolated 
but confirmed reports of ballot stuffing, and an unusually 
(and some would argue) unbelievably high turnout and end of 
day turnout in the minority regions.  We raised these issues 
with the CEC and with key Saakashvili advisors who provided 
detailed responses.  In the final analysis, we found problems 
but no evidence of massive fraud.  We will work with the 
Georgian Government to fix these problems ahead of the 
Parliamentary elections this spring.  End summary. 
 
RESULTS:  A NARROW WIN BY SAAKASHVILI 
------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C)  On January 13, the Central Election Commission 
announced the final results of the January 5 presidential 
elections.  Former president Saakashvili received 53.47% of 
the vote to give him a narrow win on the first round. 
Saakashvili's margin of victory was 52,319 votes out of a 
total of 1,982,318 votes cast (with an additional 33,129 
spoiled votes.)  Voter turn-out was a high 57%. 
Saakashvili's biggest challenger was the leader of the 
9-party opposition coalition Levan Gechachiladze who took 
25.69% of the vote.  Badri Patarkatsishvili, charged with 
plotting a coup just before the election, received 7.1% of 
the vote.  Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili received 
6.49% of the vote and New Rights leader David Gamkrelidze 
received 4.02% of the vote.  Party of Hope leader Giorgi 
Maisashvili received 0.77% of the vote and Hope Party leader 
Irina Sarishvili received 0.16% of the vote.  The CEC 
announced January 11 that 72.5% of Georgians favor NATO 
membership and 69.8% of Georgians want parliamentary 
elections in the spring. 
 
NO EVIDENCE OF MASSIVE FRAUD 
---------------------------- 
 
3. (C) There were some clear improvements in this election 
over previous elections.  This election was the first truly 
competitive election since independence in 1991.  Saakashvili 
won his first presidential election with 96 percent of the 
vote.  Shevardnadze won his presidential elections with 80% 
of the vote in 2000 and 75% of the vote in 1995, while 
Gamsakhurdia with 86.5% of the vote in 1991.  The election 
was also the most transparent to date.  With U.S. assistance, 
we pushed for more transparency in the process of producing 
election results, including by putting copies of vote tally 
protocols from each of the over 3500 precincts on the CEC 
website for the first time.  It was this transparency that 
allowed Embassy observers to look directly at the protocols 
to discover discrepancies between protocols obtained by 
observers and those included in the final vote count. 
 
BUT SOME SERIOUS IRREGULARITIES 
------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) What we found were some potentially serious 
irregularities, which fell broadly into three groups: 
protocols from election observers which did not match the 
protocols posted on the CEC website, isolated but confirmed 
reports of ballot stuffing, and an unusually (and some would 
argue) unbelievably high turnout and end of day turnout rate 
in the minority regions.  We raised these issues the week of 
January 7 in a series of meetings with the CEC Chairman and 
his staff as well as with key Saakashvili advisor Giga 
Bokeria and National Movement Spokesman Davit Bakradze. 
 
5. (C) On the first set of issues, two of the 17 protocols 
obtained by our observers did not match the protocols on the 
website in ways which benefited Saakashvili.  One of the 
protocols had a difference of 83 votes.  After looking into 
the discrepancy, the CEC (and Bokeria) told us that these 
were errors in adding the additional list votes to the final 
protocol.  They have now been corrected on the website.  We 
checked with the British and Dutch teams, and all seven of 
 
TBILISI 00000052  002 OF 003 
 
 
their protocols matched those on the website.  Similarly, 
ODIHR reported that their 160 protocols matched those on the 
website.  Related to this issue were discrepancies in the 
numbers listed in the protocols on the website and the 
numbers in the website tally of votes.  One such discrepancy 
in the Akhaltsikhe
 District gave Saakashvili more than 1000 
votes.  The CEC (and Bokeria) told us that after trying in 
vain to figure out the problem, they realized by the 
identifying number on the protocol that the protocol on the 
website had been mixed up with another from a different 
district.  This has now also been fixed. 
 
6. (C) Our observation teams observed one instance of ballot 
stuffing in the ethnic Armenian region of Akhalkalaki.  That 
team filed a formal complaint with the precinct Chair.  We 
also called CEC Chair Tarkhnishvili to alert him to this 
irregularity.  The protocol for this precinct on the CEC 
website also appeared to have been altered to give 
Saakashvili another 1000 votes.  Still, the results from this 
precinct as well as the results from a precinct where ODIHR 
observed ballot stuffing (in the same Akhalkalaki district) 
as well as ten precincts where local non-governmental 
organization ISFED reported ballot stuffing remained on the 
CEC website for a few days after the election.  In the end, 
the CEC invalidated the results of the precinct where our 
team saw ballot stuffing in Akhalkalaki as well as one of the 
precincts identified by ISFED in Telavi.  ODIHR informed us 
that their observers do not file complaints but simply 
observe the process.  The CEC invalidated two other precincts 
and the court has invalidated seven more. 
 
7. (C) The final set of issues - unusually high turnout and 
end of day voter turnout rates in the minority areas - 
remains the one that needs continued attention.  The ODIHR 
report from the November 2, 2003, Parliamentary elections, 
which prompted the Rose Revolution, claimed that many of the 
violations reported by observers at that time took place in 
Kvemo Kartli where the turnout was inflated artificially, 
indicating that ethnic Azeris did not vote in the large 
numbers suggested by the official results.  Based on the very 
high turnout in this election -- 81% in Akhalkalaki, 84% in 
Ninotsminda, 68% in Marneuli -- it is possible that this 
problem persists.  In these three districts alone, nine 
precincts had 100% turnout.  Acting President Burjanadze, in 
a meeting with the diplomatic corps on January 14, said many 
of these cases were cases of technical errors and the actual 
turnout was lower. 
 
8. (C) Many precincts also had high numbers of end of day 
voting.  Ninotsminda had four precincts with voting of more 
than 500 people in the last three hours and Marneuli had 
seven precincts with more than 500 people voting in the last 
three hours, including one precinct with 900 voters.  In all 
three districts, Saakashvili won over 90% of the vote.  The 
CEC responded that it could process 500 people in the last 
three hours with five people registering voters and that 
precincts are required by law to allow everyone who arrives 
before polls close to vote.  Bokeria argued that 70% of the 
voters from these areas turned out in local elections and a 
higher turnout for presidential elections is not a surprise; 
he further argued that support for Saakashvili - who provided 
gas and electricity to these regions for the first time - 
runs high among the minority population. 
 
9. (C) The CEC's explanation for these two trends was not 
fully satisfactory, and the CEC admitted this fact.  While a 
tradition of family voting, a more accurate voters' list, and 
the possibility of human error may account for a slightly 
higher turnout rate in the minority regions, the temperature 
(10 degrees below zero centigrade) and the migrant aspect of 
the population there (many people who live there work 
elsewhere in the winter) argue perhaps for a lower turnout 
than the national average.  When pressed, both Tarkhnishvili 
and Bokeria had no other explanation to offer except the 
possibility that local officials, in isolated instances, 
could have inflated the numbers.  While we do not doubt that 
Saakashvili would win overwhelmingly in the minority areas - 
he is the only candidate to appeal to minority voters 
directly - we do not believe that the turnout rate would be 
so disproportionate to that in the rest of the country.  At 
the same time, we note that there were no formal complaints 
filed regarding these issues and that the observed trend 
could signal a problem but is not in and of itself evidence 
of fraud. 
 
 
FINAL ANALYSIS:  NO MASSIVE FRAUD 
--------------------------------- 
 
10. (C) Still, after exhaustive research and comparing our 
 
TBILISI 00000052  003 OF 003 
 
 
results with those from ODIHR, NDI and IRI, we found no 
evidence of massive fraud.  We believe that the increased 
transparency of the government, specifically by posting the 
precinct protocols on the CEC's website revealed a likely 
longstanding problem of inflated voter turn-out in the 
minority regions.  This will be an area in which we will 
devote diplomatic and assistance efforts as we approach the 
parliamentary elections this spring. 
TEFFT

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