08TBILISI229, OPPOSITION SUSPENDS TALKS WITH GOVERNMENT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI229 2008-02-08 15:05 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3323
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0229/01 0391505
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081505Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8855
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000229 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/08/2018 
TAGS: KDEM PHUM PGOV GG
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION SUSPENDS TALKS WITH GOVERNMENT 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. Summary: Koba Davitashvili, United National Council (UNC) 
announced the decision to suspend talks with the ruling party 
United National Movement (UNM) representatives on the 
afternoon of February 8 following an impasse on resolution of 
two of the 17 demands made by the opposition.  In a follow up 
conversation with Republican leader David Berdzenishvili, 
Berdzenishvili said that Speaker Burjanadze had given a 
verbal promise to deal with the two outstanding 
issues--replacing the head of the Georgian National Public 
Broadcast Station and the Chairmanship of the Central 
Election Commission issues--by Monday.  Berdzenishvili 
implied that Koba Datashvili's announcement of the suspension 
of talks was "hasty."  At a meeting on February 7 with DCM, 
Irine Kurdadze, Nino Burjanadze's Chief of Staff, said the 
UNC was having trouble keeping unity and speaking with one 
voice and had tabled some meetings with UNC until the return 
of David Usupashvili, Head of the Republican Party, from a 
trip to the U.S. and Mexico.  In a separate meeting with DCM 
on February 7, Misha Machvariani, Deputy Speaker, called 
Usupashvili the unifying factor in the UNC and by meeting 
with him when he returns to Tbilisi on February 10, they hope 
he will be able to keep a consensus among the opposition 
parties for another meeting with Burjanadze next week. End 
Summary. 
 
 
Suspension of Talks 
------------------- 
 
2.  (C) Davitashvili announced the talks between the UNM and 
the UNC were suspended due to an impasse over two 
issues--dealing with replacement of the head of the Georgian 
Public Broadcast Station (PBS) and head of the Chairman of 
the Central Election Committee (CEC).  In a February 8 
meeting with Poloff, Berdzenishvili said that outwardly the 
talks appeared to be gathering steam, but he was quite morose 
over what he called the lack of progress in those areas to 
which they had earlier had substantial agreement.  If the UNM 
wanted  a "package deal," the UNC wants to go step by step 
and discuss each issue separately.   In a later conversation 
after Davitashvili's announcement, Berdzenishvili said that 
Speaker Nino Burjanadze had given a verbal promise to deal 
with the CEC and PBS issues by Monday, and if done, that both 
sides will meet afterwards again.  Berdzenishvili said that 
Davitashvili's statement was perhaps a bit "hasty." 
 
 
Issue #1:  Representational System 
---------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C)  Before this latest development, Machvariani and 
Berdzenishvili were both very upbeat about mutual acceptance 
of the plan to replace the majoritarian system with a more 
representational system, one of the key demands of the 
opposition's 17 demands.  Machvariani had traveled to OSCE in 
Vienna last November, and there had talked with experts about 
appropriate electoral European models which could be used in 
Georgia. Due to Presidential elections, though, it is only 
now that he was able to put forth his idea to the opposition. 
 His proposal, which appeared to be acceptable to the UNC, is 
to replace the majoritarian system with a representational 
system based on population percentages.  Under the proposed 
program, there would be a total of 50 regional seats, with 
two assigned to Abkhazia and one assigned to South Ossetia. 
The remainder of the 47 seats would be distributed throughout 
Georgia.  Both sides have yet to decide on formulas, but were 
close to agreement. 
 
 
4.  (C)  The UNC is still undecided as to whether candidates 
would run on a unified ticket under the UNC or whether 
parties would run separately during the Parliamentary 
elections.  If candidates run under the UNC umbrella, then 
Republicans would have the largest faction and other parties 
with smaller followings at the bottom of the list. 
Berdzenishvili told Poloff on February 8 that there are 
several wild card parties that could appear which could 
affect the result of the Parliamentary elections.  Firstly, 
Speaker Burjanadze could split off from the UNC and form her 
own political party.  He added that she had increased her 
credibility in the last months and this would be to her 
advantage now in forming a new political party.  Secondly, 
former Imedi Anchor (and Aslan Abashidze's Chief of Staff) 
Giorgi Targamadze had recently announced his new political 
party, the Christian Democratic Movement, although no one is 
sure yet of the party's affiliation or platform.  Another 
outstanding question was whether oligarch Badri 
Patarkatsishvili would form a party to compete in the 
Parliamentary elections. 
 
TBILISI 00000229  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
 
Issue #2:  Composition of Election Commissions 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
5.  (C) The second big issue among opposition candidates 
concerns the composition of the election commissions.  Both 
sides were positive that they would reach agreement on the 
composition of the Central Election Commission (CEC), 
Di
strict Election Commission (DEC), and precinct election 
commission (PECs), but the UNM thought the UNC's proposal of 
parity was not something which was realistic. The main 
obstacle faced in the Presidential elections was that there 
were no opposition representation at the DEC at all, and many 
alleged irregularities occurred at this level.  On February 
8, Berdzenishvili told Poloff that the current CEC Chairman, 
Levan Tarkhnishvili, was unacceptable, but as of yet both 
sides had not found a mutually acceptable candidate.  He said 
that a CEC Chairman from OSCE, COE, or EC could be an option 
which would be palatable to both sides. 
 
Issue #3:  Release of "Political Prisoners" 
------------------------------------------ 
 
6.  (C) The third big issue is the list of "political 
prisoners" identified by the UNC as those persecuted for 
their political activism.  The list consists of approximately 
50 names, and according to Machvariani, includes names not 
only of those who participated in events in November, but 
also names of those who were jailed in Shevardnadze's time, 
several for assassination attempts against Shevardnadze. 
This list, although shared with the government, has not been 
openly published.  With Poloff on February 8, Berdzenishvili 
said that the government was to meet with UNC about this 
subject again, but the meeting had been recently tabled. 
 
Issue #4:  Election Day 
----------------------- 
 
7.  (C) The fourth big issue is the election date. 
Originally, the UNC had proposed the month of April for 
Parliamentary elections, but now concedes that a date prior 
to May 18 would be acceptable.  In a February 8 meeting with 
Poloff, Machvariani said that UNM is seeking to push the 
election date to later in May in order to have time to make 
the necessary changes in the electoral code.  Berdzenishvili 
maintains that an election date in the later part of May, 
i.e., May 25, would allow the government to capitalize on the 
May 26 Independence Holiday patriotism, and shut down 
Rustaveli to opposition protests under the guise of 
"rehearsing for holiday parades."  Regardless of the date 
chosen, it must be announced by law at least 60 days prior to 
the election. 
 
Plans of the UNM 
----------------- 
 
8.  (C)  Machvariani told DCM on February 7 that discussions 
with the UNC was best served by talking privately with David 
Usupashvili first, and then together with the rest of the UNC 
representatives.  Machvariani sees in Usupashvili a person 
who wants compromise, and can mediate effectively between the 
two groups.  Currently, Machvariani is waiting for 
Usupashvili to return before they re-engage with him in the 
early part of the week. 
 
U.S. Indicates Readiness to Help on Elections 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
9.  (C)  DCM told Machvariani in a February 7 meeting that 
the U.S. is ready to assist with Parliamentary elections and 
especially in the areas of changes to the election code, 
accuracy of the voter's list, improvement of the vote 
tabulation process,  and strengthening training at all levels 
for election commission members, as well as observers. 
Machvariani was receptive to the offer and assured Poloffs 
that in 10 days the GOG would be ready to talk about where 
assistance is needed.  He agreed that the best venue to get 
this message out would be at the OSCE Ambassadorial meeting 
to ensure maximization of distribution of the information 
while cutting down on donor overlaps in assistance. 
 
 
 
TEFFT

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