08TBILISI183, DAS BRYZA MEETS ELECTION TASK FORCE MEMBERS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI183 2008-02-05 09:26 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9619
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0183/01 0360926
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 050926Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8797
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000183 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM GG
SUBJECT: DAS BRYZA MEETS ELECTION TASK FORCE MEMBERS 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  On January 18, EUR DAS Matt Bryza and 
Ambassador met with Elections Task Force Members MP Nino 
Nakashidze, and D/MOIA Eka Zguladze, as well as with key 
Saakashvili insider MP Giga Bokeria and UNM Spokesman David 
Bakradze on leave from his position as Minister of Conflict 
Resolution to discuss the problems of the Presidential 
election, expectations for the Parliamentary elections, and 
UNM plans for the next term. The group attributed election 
day tabulation problems to honest mistakes and were convinced 
that Saakashvili won fairly in the first round. Bokeria and 
Zguladze discounted the opposition's claims of widespread 
intimidation pointing out the sheer number of opposition 
public meetings wouldn't have been possible if that were the 
case.  They attributed large turnouts in the minority regions 
to historical voting patterns and family voting practices. 
As a group they were dissatisfied with ODIHR's report, citing 
that it did not account for GoG responses and therefore was 
unbalanced.  They also complained that ODIHR's report was 
leaked prematurely to all Georgian media outlets by a local 
staff member at the European Commission in Tbilisi.  With 
regard to Parliamentary elections, UNM expects to still 
retain a majority after elections, even if the current 
majoritarian system is changed.  Bokeria anticipated that the 
Georgian economy will slow as the government in the second 
term will focus more on social problems and less on 
large-scale unpopular reforms. They worried about the ability 
of Parliament to continue reforms if the UNM loses its 
sizeable majority. End Summary. 
 
Elections Aftermath 
------------------- 
 
2. (C)  Members of the Government Elections Task Force 
pointed out that the majority of the post election tabulation 
snafus were simple mistakes and the several day delay between 
closing the polls and announcing the official results was no 
different than the practice in many countries in the West. 
When asked about the cursory dismissal by the courts of 230 
complaints brought by NGOs about election day infractions, 
Bokeria said that most of the complaints were of a technical 
nature and would not have impacted the result of the 
election.  Bakradze said that a call for a second round is 
based on a political consensus of what the opposition may 
want, but is not based on law.  Saakashvili had cleared a 
majority and the law stipulates that a second round is thus 
not required.  Other members questioned the competence of 
NGOs monitoring the election, alleging that NGOs are 
politically biased and court cases should focus on 
substantive rather than procedural issues.  All maintained 
that even if Saakashvili had not won in the first round, he 
would have won in a second round.  They saw the election as a 
plebiscite on Saakashvili.  Voters chose the opposition in 
the first round because they were against Saakashvili, and 
not because they supported opposition candidates.  If a 
second round had occurred, they would have "come to their 
senses" and re-elected Saakashvili. 
 
Allegations of Intimidation Unfounded 
------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C) Zguladze discounted the notion that on election day 
voters were intimidated by police.  She said that there was 
only one allegation of police intimidation from an NGO in the 
Tsalka region, and in this instance the NGO representative 
 
SIPDIS 
was uncooperative in providing information.  There were four 
or five instances of police who were called to a polling 
station to restore order, but once order was restored, they 
quickly departed.  (Note: The electoral code forbids police 
from being inside the polling station where the ballot box is 
located, unless called by the CEC chairman to restore order. 
Once order is restored, the police should immediately leave.) 
Zguladze pointed out that two people were arrested on 
election day for stuffing ballots, and this in itself was a 
sign of maturity of the police, who previously may have 
beaten the offenders rather than arresting them.  There was 
one other instance of a clash between supporters, but the 
offenders were arrested and processed under administrative 
provisions of the law. 
 
4.  (C) All dismissed widespread intimidation and pointed to 
public statements by MOIA Merabishvili against such actions. 
Bokeria maintained that if an environment of intimidation had 
existed in the pre-election period, the opposition could not 
have organized so many protests within Tbilisi and the 
regions.  If the opposition's claims of intimidation are 
true, why have they not presented witnesses so that the 
offenders could be prosecuted?  Bokeria added that the 
opposition has contributed to the drama of intimidation by 
using such slogans as "To the grave with Saakashvili" and 
 
TBILISI 00000183  002 OF 003 
 
 
raising fear by promoting tensions by spreading propaganda 
about disappearing ink, taking photos of ballots, and wavin
g 
around suspect protocols in front of the media, but then only 
presenting 18 of them to the CEC for validation.  Bokeria 
maintained the opposition used the restraint of the UNM to 
paint a picture of intimidation, using this allegation to 
seek even more concessions from the government. 
 
Turnout and NATO in the Minority Regions 
---------------------------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  Members of the Task Force discounted many of the 
opposition's complaints about large scale falsification of 
results and questions on high turn out in the minority 
regions.  They attributed the results to historically large 
turnout tendencies, strong history of family voting and lack 
of competition in the regions.  Bokeria anticipated that 
there would be more competition during the Parliamentary 
elections there, but the incidents of family group voting 
would not change.  He maintained that Saakashvili was the 
only candidate many of the minority voters knew, as few if 
any opposition candidates ventured to the regions.  Bokeria 
did say if there were complaints that bureaucrats were 
pressuring voters to turn out in large numbers or were 
falsifying protocols, that this would be promptly 
investigated. 
 
6.  (C)  With regard to the NATO plebiscite, Bokeria said 
that those counting precinct ballots noticed on election day 
that Armenians in Samtskhe-Javakheti voted for Saakashvili, 
but against NATO.  He attributed this to a lack of knowledge 
about NATO despite an intensive public awareness campaign to 
promote NATO entry amongst voters.  He dismissed Conservative 
Party Kakha Kukava's comment that the NATO referendum was not 
a success, as 77% per cent was an exceptionally high 
percentage of support for any country.  Bokeria acknowledged 
that Georgia would require extra effort to convince Europeans 
that they should belong to NATO after November 7 events. 
 
Sore Points with OSCE and Ambassador Boden 
------------------------------------------ 
 
7.  (C)  All were unhappy with the performance of Ambassador 
Boden and his ODIHR team.  Bokeria said that OSCE made 
factual errors in its report.  Georgian authorities had 
raised these issues with Ambassador Dieter Boden, but these 
errors were not corrected in the final version of the report. 
 Nakashidze said the problems with the report were often 
translation errors, vague language, or if a problem was 
indicated, the report did not include the scale of the 
problem.  They were all stung by the quote of Boden carried 
in the German press which reportedly accidentally took one 
instance of fraud and made it appear widespread.  This, they 
lamented, has been widely repeated in the Russian press. 
According to Bokeria, a Georgian who works for the European 
Commission leaked ODIHR's final report to all Georgian media 
outlets before it was made available to the public, just two 
days before Saakashvili's inauguration.  Nakashidze and 
Zguladze said that Boden was approachable, but was reluctant 
to give them concrete examples of problems. Bokeria 
complained that it took him a week to reach the report's 
political analyst, but then the answer to most of his 
questions was, "We have our own methodology." 
 
Parliamentary Results 
--------------------- 
 
8.  (C)  The two MPs anticipated that the turn out for the 
Parliamentary elections would be less. Bokeria noted a 
discriminatory undertone to the anti-Saakashvili vote in 
Tbilisi, saying that the Tbilisi intelligentsia saw the 
election as a chance to "get the villagers out of Tbilisi" 
referencing himself and others whose families are not from 
Tbilisi originally, but who are in Saakashvili's inner 
circle.  With regard to changing the Parliamentary 
representation from the winner-take-all mandate to some other 
form, Bokeria said that UNM stands a good chance of remaining 
in the majority regardless of the configuration.  While he 
didn't discount that more opposition members in Parliament 
would be a good thing, he said that 50/50 representation from 
UNM and opposition parties would result in a deadlock where 
nothing gets done.  All worried that the upcoming 
Parliamentary elections, if they bring in opposition in 
substantial numbers, could stall or stop current GoG reform 
efforts.  They wondered how this could impact Western and 
especially European, perceptions of Georgia, especially with 
regard to its NATO aspirations. 
 
What's next? 
------------ 
 
 
TBILISI 00000183  003 OF 003 
 
 
9.  (C)  Bokeria said that this election had shown them that 
radical reforms are unpopular, and one of UNM's mistakes was 
not to react to rising inflation right away.  UNM's inaction, 
he believed, was translated to the populace as indifference. 
Well publicized property seizures during the past year was a 
serious misstep too, where the government failed to inform 
the public of its policy.  The UNM plans a small scale 
deregulation of customs but no other major economic reforms 
for the short run.  He anticipates that there will be an 
economic slow down as a result. Bokeria said the UNM had 
refrained from making any kind of negative statements during 
the campaign period, and particularly, did not comment on the 
video tapes of Patarkatsishvili.  He said in any other 
country, a candidate that had been caught planning a coup, 
would have been taken off the ballot.  He went on to say 
getting Patarkatsishvili out of politics and the media would 
be a difficult battle.  Bokeria questioned News Corporation's 
motives in Imedi, saying that News Corporation has not 
invested any money in Georgia.  Bokeria said he would meet 
Martin Pompadour, Executive Vice-President of News Corp, 
should he be willing to travel to Georgia. 
 
10.  (C)  Turning to foreign policy, Bokeria said that he 
detected a slight hardening in Moscow's position on the 
recognition of Kosovo, and thus Russia's possible recognition 
of Abkhazia.  All agreed that it was good that Russia had not 
been a factor in the elections. 
 
11.  (C)  Bokeria said that the opposition is challenging 
Saakashvili's legitimacy as president, not because they 
believe he did not win in the first round, but as leverage to 
gain additional concessions in the run-up to the 
Parliamentary elections.  DAS Bryza congratulated the group 
on their efforts to reach out to the opposition, lauding them 
for reaching an accommodation with the opposition on the 
composition of the Public Broadcasting Station.  Nakashidze, 
Zguladze, and Bokeria cautioned that the more the UNM gives 
in, the harder the opposition pushes for more concessions. 
The opposition alleges if a television station is not like 
Imedi was, then it is not free.  Bokeria said particularly 
worrisome are the opposition claims that somehow respected 
NGO leaders Alex Rondeli and Gia Nodia are now "traitors" for 
their opinions, although their viewpoints are quite neutral. 
 
12.  (C)  Bokeria said UNM would
 like a reputable 
international company to conduct exit polls during the 
Parliamentary elections, citing specifically Gallup. 
 
13. (U) DAS Bryza has approved this cable. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
TEFFT

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