08TBILISI444, RULING PARTY AMENDS GEORGIAN CONSTITUTION AGAIN,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI444 2008-03-17 13:56 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO6886
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0444/01 0771356
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171356Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9107
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000444 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: RULING PARTY AMENDS GEORGIAN CONSTITUTION AGAIN, 
OPPOSITION PROTESTS 
 
REF: TBILISI 403 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Mark X. Perry for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
(d). 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  On March 12, the ruling National Movement 
(UNM) amended the Georgian Constitution to maintain 75 
single-mandate Parliamentary seats for the upcoming election 
(reftel) and establish 75 party list seats.  In response to 
the proposed amendment, the Labor Party called on all the 
opposition parties to boycott the upcoming election. 
Although no other opposition parties have agreed to such a 
boycott, the United National Council of Opposition (UNC) 
renewed calls for its nationwide hunger strike begun on March 
10.  On March 11, MP David Gamkrelidze and his New Rightists 
(NR) party joined the UNC hunger strike.  On March 14, 
Gamkrelidze and the UNC called for Parliamentary Speaker Nino 
Burjanadze's resignation.  Approximately 8,000 people rallied 
with the NR and UNC on March 16 in front of Parliament, as 
the opposition continued the hunger strike on Parliament's 
steps.  UNC leaders called for a protest at the Embassy on 
March 19 against President Saakashvili's POTUS meeting.  The 
Republican party did not participate in the rally.  Nearly 
lost in the commotion are amendments to Georgia's election 
code, which passed their first hearing in Parliament on March 
15.  The amendments show limited improvement to address 
deficiencies in the code, while posing additional problems. 
President Saakashvili told the opposition that with time 
running out the ruling party would have to unilaterally 
decide on outstanding issues related with the Parliamentary 
elections this May, if the opposition refused to resume 
dialogue in the next couple of weeks.  End Summary. 
 
----------------------- 
UNM Amends Constitution 
----------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) On March 12, the UNM used its constitutional 
majority (two-thirds plus one) in Parliament to again amend 
the Georgian Constitution and reinstate 75 single-mandate 
Parliamentary seats for the upcoming election (reftel).  The 
number of party-list seats was reduced to 75 from 100. 
Opposition MPs did not participate in the vote.  (Note: Just 
last year the UNM had amended the constitution to institute 
100 party list seats and 50 majoritarian seats.  End note.) 
 
-------------------------------- 
Labor Calls for Election Boycott 
-------------------------------- 
 
3. (U) On March 13, the Labor Party called on all the 
opposition parties to boycott the upcoming election.  They 
said they would only participate in the election if other 
"traitor" parties did so.  To date, no other opposition 
parties have agreed to such a boycott and all other parties 
plan to participate in the election. 
 
--------------------------------- 
NR, UNC Demand Burjanadze Resign, 
Amid Protest, Hunger Strike 
--------------------------------- 
 
4. (U) On March 14, Gamkrelidze and his New Rightists (NR) 
party called for Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze's 
resignation.  On the same day, the Republican party denounced 
Burjanadze for allegedly violating the terms and spirit of 
the negotiations they had held with her in the previous 
weeks.  In addition to decrying the 75 single-mandate 
amendment, Republican Tina Khidasheli said that Burjanadze 
had not followed through on reported agreements to change the 
chairmanship of the Central Election Commission.  Although 
they blame her for not maintaining earlier agreements, the 
Republicans did not join NR in calling for Burjanadze's 
resignation as they did not believe it would resolve the 
crisis. 
 
5. (U) On March 16, approximately 8,000 people rallied with 
the NR and UNC at Parliament, as the opposition continued 
their hunger strike (begun March 9) on Parliament's steps. 
The protesters were an older crowd, evenly split between men 
and women.  Around 25 tents and 70 hunger strikers were set 
up on in front of the building.  The hunger strike was 
entering its seventh day.  The crowd warmly welcomed MP David 
Gamkrelidze (also on hunger strike in Burjanadze's office 
reception area, and appearing gaunt).  He again called on 
Burjanadze to resign.  Noticeably absent from the protest 
were the Republicans and Giorgi Targamadze's new Christian 
Democrats party.  The same day, Saakashvili described the 
hunger strike action as "not Christian" and said all 
Georgians should "stand together to protect the country."  On 
 
TBILISI 00000444  002 OF 002 
 
 
March 17, Burjanadze said she would resign only if the UNC 
recognizes Saakashvili as Georgia's legitimate President and 
drops its other demands. 
 
-------------------------------- 
UNC Plans Protest at the Embassy 
-------------------------------- 
 
6. (U) UNC leaders MP Levan Gachechiladze, MP Zviad 
Dzidziguri, and Koba Davitashvili announced that the UNC will 
demonstrate in front of U.S. Embassy Tbilisi on Wednesday,

March 19 at 1400 to protest Saakashvili's meeting with 
President Bush.  Gachechiladze said that "the U.S. 
administration should see the will of the Georgian people. 
We will show the U.S. that Georgia is not a country of 
experiments.  We are building a Georgian state, not an 
American one."  (Note: Gamkrelidze did not/not join in calls 
for a protest against the U.S.  End note.) 
 
--------------------------------- 
Election Code Amendments Proposed 
--------------------------------- 
 
7. (U) Nearly lost in the commotion are amendments to 
Georgia's election code, which passed their first hearing in 
Parliament on March 15.  President Saakashvili told the 
opposition that with time running out the ruling party would 
have to unilaterally decide on outstanding issues related 
with the Parliamentary elections this May, if the opposition 
refused to resume dialogue in the next couple of weeks.  The 
proposed amendments raise the District Election Commissions 
(DEC) from 5 members to 13, with 6 members proposed by 
opposition parties.  This does not fulfill the opposition's 
demand for DEC parity, as the UNM would retain a 7 to 6 
majority.  The proposal also would increase the DECs' powers, 
by allowing them to tabulate the results from the precincts 
and to cancel election results in precincts.  The DECs did 
not have these powers during the presidential election.  The 
proposal also eliminates same-day registration and voting. 
Precinct camera footage will be made immediately available, 
with restrictions to limit how long a challenge could be 
reviewed (so as not to drag out the tabulation process). 
Also in the proposal, majoritarian MP candidates will no 
longer need supporters' signatures to be officially 
registered as a candidate.  Political parties will only need 
30,000 signatures rather than the current 50,000 to be placed 
on the party list.  UNM MP Davit Kirkitadze proposed that 
four majoritarian seats for lawmakers from South Ossetia and 
Abkhaz constituencies be allocated from Tbilisi's nine 
existing majoritarian seats.  (Note: Post will attend a 
roundtable on the proposed amendments with stakeholders on 
March 18.  End note.) 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
8. (C) The opposition does not appear to be making much 
progress with its protests and hunger strike.  The protest at 
the Embassy will be just the second by the opposition at the 
embassy's new location since the clashes in November 2007. 
Despite this, the UNM is pressing every advantage.  The 
proposed election code amendments could be problematic.  Some 
proposed steps, such as including the opposition on the DECs, 
are positive on the surface.  However, giving the DECs power 
to tabulate and annul results is contrary to donors' plans to 
streamline tabulation and maintain transparency and 
accountability of the Central Election Commission. 
PERRY

Wikileaks

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