08TBILISI545, GEORGIANS LOOK TO MAY 21 ELECTIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI545 2008-04-02 13:37 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1195
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0545/01 0931337
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021337Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9217
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000545 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/02/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIANS LOOK TO MAY 21 ELECTIONS 
 
REF: TBILISI 528 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (U) Summary: A Presidential decree on March 21 set the 
date for upcoming parliamentary elections on May 21.  Against 
the backdrop of campaign preparations, events are unfolding 
quickly.  The ruling National Movement (UNM) party replaced 
its Secretary General, effectively sidelining a leading 
ruling party member.  Patriarch Ilia II again called on the 
government and opposition to cooperate on the election. 
President Saakashvili introduced a restructured Inter-Agency 
Task Force on Free and Fair Elections (IATF), and said the 
group will ensure his personal guarantee of free elections. 
The Republican Party restated the opposition's support for 
Georgia's Membership Action Plan in NATO.  ODIHR and the 
Venice Commission both have initial observation teams 
arriving in April.  The OSCE Ambassadors Working Group 
(OSCE-AWG) plans to address the GOG on election issues in the 
coming week.  In addition, the OSCE-AWG intends to coordinate 
election observation teams throughout the country.  End 
Summary. 
 
Kirkitadze Out as UNM Secretary General 
--------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) On March 28, MP Davit Kirkitadze, Secretary General of 
the ruling UNM, was appointed Governor of the Kvemo Kartli 
region, replacing Zurab Melikishvili.  Melikishvili will 
reportedly be placed on the UNM party list.  It was reported 
earlier that Kirkitadze wanted to run as a majoritarian 
candidate in his native Chiatura single-mandate district. 
According to reports, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mikheil 
Machavariani will take over as party leader of the UNM. 
(Comment: Post interprets this move as a win for Saakashvili 
insider MP Giga Bokeria, who is known to have butted heads 
with Kirkitadze for influence in the UNM.  Kvemo Kartli is 
dominated by the Azeri minority community and was a 
significant area of support for Saakashvili in the January 5 
election.  End comment.) 
 
Patriarch Again Tells Government to Compromise 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
3. (C) On March 30 during his Sunday sermon, Georgian 
Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II repeated his call to the 
government and opposition to resume dialogue on the election 
(reftel), and to compromise on outstanding issues.  Ilia II 
noted that the opposition's decision to end the hunger strike 
defused a tense situation.  He then stressed that he had also 
called on the government to take steps to resolve the 
situation. 
 
President Introduces Election Task Force 
---------------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) On March 31, President Saakashvili publicly introduced 
the revamped Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Free and Fair 
Elections to the diplomatic corps.  Saakashvili said the 
government demands democratic elections and he specifically 
appointed the IATF (reftel) to "guarantee" them.  The 
opposition, led by the Republican and Industrialist parties, 
immediately denounced the IATF, claiming it is an ineffective 
enforcer of the election code as evidenced by the fact that 
the IATF for the presidential election had not provided any 
results about its activities.  The IATF also did not include 
any opposition or parliamentary members. 
 
Republicans Renew Call for MAP in NATO 
-------------------------------------- 
 
5. (U) On March 31, Usupashvili held a briefing and announced 
that -- despite the current disagreement in Georgia's 
internal politics -- the Republican Party fully supports 
Georgia's accession to NATO and called for NATO to grant 
Georgia a Membership Action Plan.  Usupashvili pointed out 
that this is widely-held view among the opposition parties, 
who had signed a compact supporting Georgia's MAP last fall. 
He also stated that the public strongly supported Georgian 
membership in NATO (77 percent) in the plebiscite held on 
January 5. 
 
ODIHR, CoE Election Observation Teams 
Arriving in April 
------------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) In a meeting of the OSCE Ambassadors Working Group 
(OSCE-AWG) on April 1, OSCE announced that ODIHR will have a 
long-term election observation mission beginning on April 9. 
Twenty-eight long-term ODIHR observers will arrive in Tbilisi 
on April 15 and remain until at least May 29.  They will stay 
 
TBILISI 00000545  002 OF 002 
 
 
until June 12 in case second round runoffs are needed.  ODIHR 
also intends to request 350 short-term election observers. 
In addition, the Council of Europe announced that they too 
will have an election observation team arriving in mid-April 
for a pre-election survey.  The CoE group will meet with 
multiple parties and then return the week prior to the 
elections.  The CoE is hoping their observers will stay as 
"long as possible" after the elections. 
 
OSCE to Address GOG on Election Issues 
-------------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) At the April 1 OSCE-AWG me
eting, other governments 
raised concern about several technical election issues. 
These included the complaints process, the precinct results 
protocols (reftel), Parliament's refusal to schedule the 
Public Defender's annual presentation on human rights 
(including the portion on elections), and the recent 
selection of additional professional members of the District 
Election Commissions (OSCE called these selections 
"pre-determined").  The European Commission Ambassador 
suggested that the OSCE-AWG draft a letter noting these 
concerns and submit it to the IATF.  The letter is being 
drafted and will be cleared by OSCE-AWG members this week. 
 
Coordinating Election Observation Teams 
--------------------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) In addition, one ambassador suggested that the 
members of the OSCE-AWG coordinate their missions' 
observation teams to avoid the duplication of observation 
efforts seen on January 5.  The OSCE-AWG may suggest a plan 
toward this end at their next meeting. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
9. (C) The opposition now appears to be working full-bore on 
the upcoming elections.  On March 25, opposition leader 
Salome Zourabichvili told Charge that the United Opposition 
must run in the elections and are working toward this end. 
She noted that since the UNC demanded early elections, it 
would be ridiculous to boycott them now as the Labor Party 
suggested. 
TEFFT

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