08TBILISI364, ELECTION NEGOTIATIONS END (FOR NOW) IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI364 2008-03-05 14:29 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXYZ2912
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSI #0364 0651429
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051429Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9015
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L TBILISI 000364 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/05/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM GG
SUBJECT: ELECTION NEGOTIATIONS END (FOR NOW) IN 
DISAPPOINTMENT 
 
REF: TBILISI 318 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: On March 4 Georgia's Parliament approved 
the first reading of an amendment to the Constitution on 
elections.  The proposed amendment changes the composition of 
Parliament to 75 party list seats, and 75 "majoritarian" 
single mandate seats.  This move was in opposition to the 
political opposition's desire for 100 party list seats and 50 
"proportional majoritarian" seats (reftel), a proposal which 
had been the subject of a 2004 nationwide referendum.  The 
United National Council of Opposition (UNC) angrily denounced 
the vote, and accused the ruling National Movement of 
breaking their previous commitment to a "proportional" 
system. A dispirited group of UNC leaders met the Ambassador 
on March 4 and discussed the news with him.  The UNC must now 
decide how to respond to the government's action, which will 
require a second and third reading before becoming law.  The 
Ambassador encouraged the opposition to keep negotiating with 
the government as the amendment moves through Parliament. 
End Summary. 
 
2. (U)  On March 4 Georgia's Parliament voted 168 to 2 to 
approve the first reading of an amendment on elections to the 
Constitution.  This amendment changes the proposed 
composition of Parliament to include 75 MP seats elected by 
party list, and retains the current 75 "majoritarian" MP 
seats elected by single mandate.  This move was in opposition 
to the political opposition's desire for 100 party list seats 
and 50 "proportional majoritarian" seats (reftel).  The UNC 
and other opposition parties (including the New Rightists and 
Republicans) angrily denounced the vote, and accused the 
ruling National Movement of breaking their previous 
commitment to a "proportional" system of 50 majoritarian 
seats. 
 
3. (C) UNC leaders MP Levan Gachechiladze and Goga 
Khaindrava, appearing visibly upset, vented their frustration 
in a meeting with the Ambassador on March 4.  Accompanied by 
fellow UNC MPs Gia Tortladze and Kakha Kukava, Gachechiladze 
and Khaindrava asked the Ambassador how they could get the 
government to meet UNC demands if not with street protests? 
Gachechiladze said the UNC cannot effectively compete in 
single mandate districts due to the National Movement's 
financial advantage.  The Ambassador suggested they still 
negotiate for some change prior to the second and third 
readings.  The Ambassador also pointed out that Gachechiladze 
won a majority of votes in Tbilisi without substantial funds 
during the January 5 election, indicating that perhaps the 
opposition could compete. 
 
4. (U) Tempers may have cooled somewhat overnight.  Following 
a late night meeting, Republican MP Levan Berdzenishvili 
commented that such a proposed system is not necessarily the 
end for the opposition.  He said that the opposition could 
compete in the 75 majoritarian districts with the National 
Movement, but not with each other.  The opposition "should 
nominate candidates in each single-mandate (seat) through 
mutual agreement," he said.  Gachechiladze said the UNC would 
announce an "action program to the people in the near future." 
 
5. (C) In a earlier meeting with the Ambassador, Speaker of 
Parliament Nino Burjanadze told the Ambassador that the 
opposition had refused to accept a proposed, "proportional" 
majoritarian system and was in effect incapable of 
negotiating any agreement to the election system.  She 
expressed frustration with the endless negotiations in which 
the opposition frequently could not present a clear position. 
 She said that in the end the National Movement decided to 
support a proposal to keep the majoritarian system for the 
next elections. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
6. (C) It has become obvious that the UNC is at the breaking 
point and the ruling party is pressing their advantage.  The 
actual proposal of 75 single mandate seats is likely the most 
democratic theoretical solution, although it conflicts with 
the 2004 referendum.  Ultimately, the opposition does not now 
have the seats in the current Parliament to challenge the 
National Movement's overwhelming advantage.  This may change 
following the parliamentary elections this spring. 
TEFFT

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