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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI143 2008-01-30 14:29 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0143/01 0301429
P 301429Z JAN 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TBILISI 000143 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary: On January 19, EUR DAS Matt Bryza and 
Ambassador Tefft met with key leaders of the United National 
Council of Opposition (UNC).  The UNC's main contention was 
that Mikheil Saakashvili did not receive 50 percent of the 
vote in the January 5 election.  Consequently, they said they 
and their supporters did not recognize Saakashvili as the 
legitimate President.  The UNC alleged the election was 
falsified through the alteration of election protocols after 
the polls closed.  Although they offered no proof, they 
contended that this was widely known and that the people now 
trust neither Saakashvili nor the system.  The UNC also 
criticized the U.S. for statements which they believed 
legitimized an illegitimate win.  Although they purported to 
be against revolution, each leader underscored the 
seriousness of the current situation.  The leaders alleged a 
rise in anti-Americanism, which they attributed to perceived 
American support for the ruling party.  Bryza responded that 
the U.S. carefully reviewed the findings from its own 
observation teams, compared them with others from the 
international community, and only then did President Bush 
call Saakashvili to congratulate him on his election.  Bryza 
countered that the anti-Americanism was also being fueled by 
some members of the opposition. 
2. (C) After the meeting, Bryza met separately with 
Usupashvili.  Usupashvili underscored the seriousness of the 
situation facing Saakashvili and his United National Movement 
party (UNM).  He said the UNC is also working through 
internal dissension, trying to move forward for the 
parliamentary elections.  Bryza then met with presidential 
candidate and New Rightists (NR) Party Chairman, MP David 
Gamkrelidze (not a UNC member.)  Gamkrelidze echoed UNC 
concerns regarding Saakashvili's "illegitimate victory" and 
unjust UNM control of public institutions.  His NR party is 
joining the UNC in protesting the election results.  All 
opposition leaders agreed that truly fair parliamentary 
elections are the only way out of the current situation.  End 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
United Opposition Refuses to Recognize Saakashvili Win 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
3. (C) On January 19, EUR DAS Matt Bryza and Ambassador Tefft 
met with key leaders of the United National Council of 
Opposition (UNC), a bloc of eight opposition parties.  UNC 
presidential candidate Levan Gachechiladze, Republican Party 
Chairman David Usupashvili, Georgia's Way Leader Salome 
Zourabichvili, and Conservative MP Kakha Kukava represented 
the UNC.  Gachechiladze alleged that Saakashvili did not win 
over 50 percent of the vote.  He contended that the election 
was falsified through the alteration of election protocols 
after the polls closed.  Although the opposition leaders 
offered no proof, they contended that this was widely known 
and that the people now trust neither Saakashvili nor the 
Private Negotiations, Public Protests 
4. (C) Gachechiladze turned to Usupashvili on how the UNC is 
responding to the situation.  Usupashvili said he is leading 
talks with Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze.  He said 
they could not negotiate directly with Saakashvili until 
after the Spring parliamentary elections because of the 
public mistrust.  He said the opposition's concerns are 
focused on the Central Election Commission (CEC), Georgian 
Public Broadcaster (GPB), the courts, and oversight of 
police.  He said the opposition believes that Saakashvili's 
control of these public institutions allowed him to take the 
election, and contends that real opposition influence (as 
opposed to "parity") in each of these public institutions is 
critical to restore public trust in government.  Usupashvili 
said the current imbalance of power in the country cannot be 
corrected without such influence. 
5. (C) At the same time, Gachechiladze said the UNC is 
continuing public protests against Saakashvili while they 
formulate their platform for the parliamentary election. 
(Note: An UNC protest was held on January 20 immediately 
after the Presidential Inauguration ceremony.  End note.) 
Gachechiladze expressed concern about being able to rein in 
public fervor against Saakashvili.  Usupashvili said the UNC 
hopes to present good solutions to the public in the coming 
TBILISI 00000143  002 OF 004 
Fair Elections Only Solution 
6. (C) The four opposition leaders agreed that only one 
solution exists out of the current gridlock.  First, the USG 
and European partners must hold Saakashvili and the UNM 
accountable to any signed agreement resulting from 
negotiations with Bu
rjanadze.  Second, the coming 
parliamentary election must be truly fair.  This means the 
UNM must be willing to accept defeat at the polls, should 
that happen. 
7. (C) None of the opposition leaders, however, were 
convinced that Saakashvili would allow a UNM parliamentary 
loss.  They gloomily predicted open revolt should Saakashvili 
and the UNM refuse to accept possible defeat and "take the 
election" through extraordinary means. 
DAS Bryza Looks Ahead 
8. (C) DAS Bryza and the Ambassador reiterated that the 
Embassy looked very hard at the election results before the 
USG acknowledged Saakashvili had won.  More than a week 
passed between election day and President Bush's 
congratulatory call.  They said the opposition must 
acknowledge Saakashvili's legitimacy at some point.  Bryza 
said that such a thin victory on January 5 was a strong 
message to Saakashvili (on the need to reconnect with civil 
society and common citizens) and Georgia's neighbors (on the 
legitimacy of a presidential victory with 52 percent rather 
than 65 or 85 percent of the vote.)  Bryza also pointed out 
that despite the opposition's claims, he never made a 
statement legitimizing the January 5 election.  Rather, he 
was careful to note that "if the January 5 election is 
determined to have been free and fair, then all Georgians 
will have an obligation to honor the will of the Georgian 
voter, whether they like the results or not.  But if the 
election is determined to have been neither free nor fair, 
then Georgia would find itself in a situation analogous to 
that of November 2003."  Zourabichvili contended the media 
presented his interview in a manner that led Georgians to 
believe Bryza supported a Saakashvili win.  Bryza responded 
that he could not control the media, and that the opposition 
themselves (i.e. with their "Bryza Museum of Lies" promoted 
by MP Zviad Dzidziguri) also shared some responsibility for 
driving anti-American sentiment.  (Note: Following the 
meeting with Bryza, Zourabichvili castigated the Georgian 
media for twisting Bryza's previous comments on the election 
out of context.  End Note.) 
9. (C) Bryza agreed with the group that "much better" 
parliamentary elections are necessary and that the USG will 
strongly support such a push with the GOG.  Bryza pointed out 
that he and the Embassy had been working very hard to restore 
Imedi TV and some balance in Georgia's television coverage. 
He further noted the USG's longstanding message to 
Saakashvili that to strengthen democracy, the GOG needed to 
cultivate - not just tolerate - a loyal political opposition. 
 Bryza also said that Membership Action Plan (MAP) for 
Georgia in NATO is unlikely to be awarded at the Bucharest 
Summit.  Bryza stated that truly fair parliamentary elections 
are key to putting Georgia back on track for MAP. 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
Usupashvili: Fractures in UNC; Saakashvili Under Pressure 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
10. (C) In a following, private meeting, Usupashvili told DAS 
Bryza that UNC member Koba Davitashvili and his People's 
Party would protest at the Embassy on January 22 (reftel). 
Usupashvili said Davitashvili ignored the will of the rest of 
the UNC, despite a unanimous vote against him.  Usupashvili 
stressed that the UNC does not support any anti-American 
protests.  He said this public division of the UNC is bad for 
its responsible members.  Bryza thanked Usupashvili for the 
advance notice of the protest at the Embassy and acknowledged 
Davitashvili's right to protest in a free democracy. 
11. (C) Usupashvili cautioned that there is also division and 
pressure within the UNM.  He assessed that Saakashvili did 
not expect to lose Kakheti or Tbilisi.  Usupashvili said 
Saakashvili had to rely on populist pledges on social 
security and other welfare programs to secure 53 percent of 
the vote.  Usupashvili believed that such promises could not 
be kept.  Usupashvili said it would help if Burjanadze were 
stronger, as she could then exert greater influence via 
Parliament and in the UNM.  Due to these conflicting 
obligations, Usupashvili thought Saakashvili may fear an 
TBILISI 00000143  003 OF 004 
opposition victory in the next election will mean his end. 
If Saakashvili reacts, by cracking down on the opposition for 
example, then it could turn bad in the country.  Usupashvili 
said everyone in the UNC is against recognizing Saakashvili 
as the president.  However, he added that civil disobedience 
is still being debated.  Usupashvili said he is ready to do 
whatever he can to help temper the opposition's response. 
"But it's not easy," he said. "We are trying to calm people 
12. (C) Compounding matters, Usupashvili said that some in 
the UNM oppose ceding any influence at all in the CEC, GPB, 
courts, or police to the opposition.  Usupashvili said the 
people will not trust another election without some oversight 
of the police.  He was unsure whether the public trust can be 
restored at all under Saakashvili.  He thought that even if 
significant personnel changes were made within the Justice 
Ministry and Supreme Court it may not be enough. 
13. (C) Usupashvili said his own Republican Party will have a 
committee meeting in two weeks to prepare language and ideas 
for the coming election.  Usupashvili is hoping that the UNC 
can also move forward to the parliamentary elections.  He 
pointed out that truly fair parliamentary elections were his 
party's initial demand last year.  He thought that the people 
would not tolerate another perceived unfair election.  DAS 
Bryza acknowledged the division in society, but agreed with 
Usupashvili that Georgia needs an election now, not a fight. 
Gamkrelidze: Same Fears, Same Problems 
14. (C) MP Gamkrelidze also met DAS Bryza privately on 
January 19.  He echoed that the election may have restored 
Saakashvili's international legitimacy, but it had not 
restored his legitimacy with the Georgian public.  He said 
that most people in the cities don't think Saakashvili won. 
Gamkrelidze said he was unsure whether he could convince his 
supporters that the next elections will be fair. 
15. (C) Gamkrelidze appealed to Bryza to support "real 
elections" and not just "international standards." 
Gamkrelidze said that the opposition must have influence on 
policy in the CEC, GPB, and the judiciary.  He suggested that 
possibly a new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or High 
Council of Justice could help restore people's trust in their 
votes.  Gamkrelidze also suggested in a meeting to Burjanadze 
that it might help if Gachechiladze could run in a direct 
election for Tbilisi Mayor.  The Ambassador s
aid Saakashvili 
had already refused this idea.  Gamkrelidze said trouble 
would ensue unless some balance of power is restored in the 
16. (C) Gamkrelidze said he is unsure as to what the NR will 
do regarding the parliamentary elections, whether or not, for 
example, NR may combine with another party.  Gamkrelidze said 
that the NR is supporting the UNC in its public protests, but 
will continue to abide by its long-standing commitment to 
non-violence.  His party also will not support any 
anti-American protests.  DAS Bryza noted that Gamkrelidze has 
always followed his own lead, and that this may be a good 
time to continue doing so.  If the situation continues, 
Gamkrelidze said it would be ripe for exploitation by a 
revolutionary.  He said former Defense Minister Irakli 
Okruashvili (now facing extradition in France) was hoping to 
exploit just such a situation. 
17. (C) Gamkrelidze said that Saakashvili brought about the 
current situation.  Because Saakashvili continually weakened 
the reasonable opposition, he said, now only vocal, 
aggressive voices are heard.  DAS Bryza agreed this was 
exactly his point.  Bryza said he would make the same point 
to the government.  Bryza underscored the importance of the 
parliamentary election to Georgia's future.  Gamkrelidze 
responded that Saakashvili must understand and accept that if 
parliamentary elections are truly fair, he won't get a 
18. (C) Comment: Usupashvili and Gamkrelidze were both 
apologetic for the recent public vilification directed toward 
DAS Bryza.  Both were somber and serious in their analysis of 
the current situation as quite dangerous.  Usupashvili has 
advised the Ambassador that he is unsure how long the UNC can 
hold together.  Still, the UNC and Gamkrelidze independently 
agreed on the mechanisms (CEC, TV, Courts, and Police) they 
believe the UNM used to control the election outcome. 
TBILISI 00000143  004 OF 004 
Equally noticeable was the opposition's agreement that 
"everything" is dependent on the parliamentary elections 
being truly fair.  If they are not, all parties predicted 
worse trouble will come.  End comment. 
19. (U) DAS Bryza has cleared this cable. 


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