08TBILISI204, DAS BRYZA MEETS CIVIL SOCIETY MEMBERS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI204 2008-02-07 10:28 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1592
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0204/01 0381028
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071028Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8838
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000204 
 
SIPDIS 
 
USAID 
STATE FOR EUR DAS BRYZA 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUMKDEM GG
SUBJECT: DAS BRYZA MEETS CIVIL SOCIETY MEMBERS 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary: In a meeting with DAS Bryza and Ambassador, 
representatives of civil society discussed the problems of the 
Presidential election and what impact it would have on Saakashvili's 
second term.  The group was divided on whether Saakashvili won in 
the first round.  Many thought that a second round would have 
ensured Saakashvili's legitimacy and without it, he may be hard 
pressed to implement his initiatives with the new (and likely more 
divided) Parliament. They thought the opposition is whipping up 
Anti-American sentiments for its own means, since it is widely 
perceived that Saakashvili's government is supported by the U.S. 
administration. To counter this, they recommended that the U.S. 
should demonstrate that it supports the Georgian people and not a 
particular person or political party.  Despite setbacks on November 
7 and the imperfect election, all said the country has matured 
politically and Georgian society overall has emerged as a stronger 
democratic institution:  Georgia is experiencing a competitive 
system for the first time, where one candidate or one party does not 
control everything. Respected NGO leader Alex Rondeli summed it up, 
saying that when we look back, we will assess that Georgian 
democracy had taken a big step forward-but he feared how Russia 
might take advantage of the situation during this time and advised 
of the need, especially now, for continued U.S. support.  End 
Summary. 
 
2.  (SBU) On January 18, DAS Bryza and Ambassador met with civil 
society representatives Alexander Rondeli (Georgian Foundation of 
Strategic and International Studies, GFSIS), Tamar Kekenadze (New 
Generation New Initiative-nGnI), Gia Nodia (Caucasus Institute), 
Shalva Pichkhadze (Georgia for NATO), Giorgi Chkheidze (Georgian 
Young Lawyers Association, GYLA), Eka Siradze (International Society 
for Fair Elections, ISFED), Tamar Karosanidze (Transparency 
International, TI), and Eka Kvesitadze (24 Hours) to talk about the 
presidential election and what impact it would have on Saakashvili's 
second term. 
 
Debate Over the Results 
----------------------- 
3. (SBU) The group was divided on the issue of whether Saakashvili 
had won an outright majority in the first round, although all agreed 
Saakashvili would have won in a second round.  Some believed that 
even though Saakashvili would have won a second round, the process 
would have been better served had the election gone on to two 
rounds.  Many thought a second round would have ensured 
Saakashvili's legitimacy and without it, he may be hard pressed to 
implement his initiatives with the new (and likely divided) 
Parliament.  ISFED conducted a parallel turnout tabulation on 
election day at 394 Precinct Election Commissions.  Based on this 
representative sample, ISFED determined that Saakashvili garnered 
50.8% of the vote. 
 
4.  (SBU) The group attributed Saakashvili's high success rate in 
minority regions to the trend that minorities in Georgia typically 
vote for the incumbent president and in far away regions, like 
Javakheti, residents simply do not know other candidates. To 
illustrate, GFSIS's Rondeli said that Shalva Natelashvili, Labor 
Party, traveled briefly to Akhalkalaki to campaign and his message 
was, "Georgians in Tbilisi don't want Saakashvili, why would you 
here?" and promptly left.  There continues to be a vacuum of 
information, which translates to votes for the incumbent. 
 
Concerns About the Process 
-------------------------- 
5.  (SBU) TI's Karosanidze assessed that the pre-election period was 
problematic due to reports of abuse of administrative resources and 
easy access to the media by the incumbent versus the other 
candidates. She characterized election day as satisfactory, even 
though procedural violations were observed.  She and nGnI's 
Kekenadze both expressed concern about the problems seen after the 
close of the polls, especially including counting procedures of the 
red ballots (same day registrants). Chkheidze said that he was 
concerned at the lack of a transparent process to track complaints 
and indifference with which the courts had perfunctorily dismissed 
GYLA's 230 cases linked to election day violations.  TI, GYLA, and 
ISFED representatives agreed and said in many instances their formal 
complaints were ignored by the precinct election commissions (PECs) 
and the district electoral commissions (DECs).  GYLA alleged that in 
many instances, their concerns were not addressed at all, whether it 
be at the PEC, DEC or even through the court system.  Chkheideze 
maintained that GYLA was less interested in who won than in the 
transparency of the tabulation results.  He believed that "final 
result" of the election was still not clear. 
 
6. (SBU) Comparing the elections with latest local elections of 
October 5, 2006, the group said that the latter were much better 
than presidential elections since there were fewer irregularities. 
However, all said in a more general sense that the presidential 
electi
ons were better for Georgian democracy overall in that they 
were moving Georgia forward to a multi-party system. 
 
TBILISI 00000204  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
The Ugly Rise of Anti-Americanism 
--------------------------------- 
7.  (SBU) Nodia attributed the possible increase of Anti-American 
sentiments to the perception that Saakashvili's government is 
supported by the U.S. administration and the opposition may be 
whipping up these feelings for its own end.  All stressed that the 
U.S. should demonstrate that it supports the Georgian people, and 
not a particular person or political group by investing in 
institutions and groups rather than individuals. 
 
What it Means for Georgian Democracy 
------------------------------------ 
8.  (SBU) Rondeli said the past month's internal turmoil has turned 
Georgia into a more mature country with a stronger democratic 
society.  While November 7 events were a misstep on Georgia's long 
road to NATO, Georgia's further development with a potentially 
multi-party parliament and stronger democratic institutions would 
work positively for Georgia's integration in the Euro-Atlantic 
community.  He went on to say that Georgia has never known such a 
competitive political environment as has developed over the last 
months.  Previously, there was principally one party but now 
multiple parties are evolving.  He believed that when we look back, 
this period will have been a big step forward for Georgian 
democracy.  Rondeli said this was a positive change, but relayed his 
concerns that Russia may take advantage of the situation, and 
advised of the need, especially now, for continued U.S. support. 
 
What it Means for the Second Term 
--------------------------------- 
9.  (SBU) All agreed that the inclusion of more voices in government 
and Parliament would result in a slow down of reforms during 
Saakashvili's second term, but didn't see this as necessarily bad. 
They believed that the benefits of checks and balances in the 
leadership outweighed the risk of political paralysis-although they 
all worried how Russia might take advantage of the situation. 
 
10.  (U) DAS Bryza cleared this cable.

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