08TBILISI707, GEORGIA PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION UPDATE APRIL 24

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI707 2008-04-24 15:17 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7121
PP RUEHBW RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0707/01 1151517
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241517Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9342
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000707 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/23/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION UPDATE APRIL 24 
 
REF: TBILISI 676 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (U) Summary:  On the evening of April 21, Speaker of 
Parliament Nino Burjanadze surprised most of Georgia and 
announced that she would not seek re-election May 21. 
Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze took her place atop the 
ruling United National Movement's (UNM) party list.  Her 
announcement was followed by an all-night disagreement at the 
Central Election Commission (CEC), where opposition CEC 
members argued that the UNM had not submitted their party 
list on time.  Observers could not clearly ascertain what 
happened, and the CEC took a black eye as a result.  On April 
22, Minister of Justice Nika Gvaramia and State Minister on 
Regional Coordination Issues Davit Tkeshelashvili resigned 
from the government's Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on 
elections to campaign for the UNM.  Other ministers nominated 
as UNM parliamentary candidates must also resign to campaign. 
 At an OSCE Technical Working Group meeting on April 23, 
Transparency International of Georgia reported that 
intimidation has been reported in the regions, but these 
reports are noticeably less than prior to the January 5 
election.  On April 22, the CEC announced a three-year 
agreement with the Latvian Election Commission.  The 
agreement foresees cooperation, exchanges, and technical 
assistance between the two CECs.  The Parliamentary Assembly 
of the Council of Europe (PACE) announced that it will pay a 
pre-election fact-finding mission, again led by Matyas Eorsi, 
to Georgia from April 23 to 25.  On April 23, President 
Saakashvili offered to regularly meet with the opposition "to 
keep them apprised of the national security situation" in 
light of recent tension with Russia.  End Summary. 
 
------------------- 
Burjanadze Bows Out 
------------------- 
 
2. (C) Just after 1800 hours on April 21, Speaker of 
Parliament Nino Burjanadze announced that she would not seek 
re-election with the ruling UNM, and would not top the UNM's 
party list of candidates for the May 21 Parliamentary 
elections.  Her withdrawal was prompted by an internal UNM 
disagreement over the number of Burjanadze's supporters to be 
placed on the party list (septel).  In her announcement, 
Burjanadze confirmed that she still supports the UNM and is 
not going into the opposition. 
 
-------------------- 
Confusion at the CEC 
-------------------- 
 
3. (U) Party lists were due at the CEC at the same time 
Burjanadze made her announcement.  Shortly afterward, 
opposition CEC members demanded to see the list that the UNM 
submitted just a few minutes prior to the deadline (reftel). 
The opposition suspected that the UNM had not had time to 
prepare and properly submit their list after Burjanadze's 
announcement, although some observers claim the UNM had more 
than one list ready depending on the outcome of the 
negotiations on seats.  CEC Chairman Levan Tarkhnishvili (in 
what the opposition CEC members called "a breach of internal 
CEC rules") reportedly refused to allow the opposition's CEC 
members to see the list itself or even the sealed files 
holding the UNM list.  Reportedly, the situation turned to 
near fisticuffs as hundreds of opposition representatives 
surrounded and tried to enter the CEC. 
 
4. (U) The opposition then called on international and local 
observers, including ODIHR, NDI and ISFED, to come to the 
CEC.  After several observer groups arrived at around 21:00, 
Tarkhnishvili apparently agreed to allow the opposition CEC 
members and observers -- together with a UNM representative 
-- to see the sealed documents.  After waiting for a key for 
the locked room for nearly five hours, the room that was 
opened did not contain the party lists.  Tarkhnishvili then 
said the party lists were in a separate locked room and 
opened it.  All of the party lists were inside.  Allegedly, 
the UNM packet containing the list had a broken seal.  (A CEC 
statement released on April 22 states the "all the sealed 
packages of submitted lists ... were found in the state of 
good condition.")  ODIHR and ISFED photographed the documents 
in the UNM packets, and all party lists were returned to the 
locked room.  The mob then finally disbanded. 
 
5. (SBU) The opposition now claims that during the waiting 
period, the UNM faxed in a list, which was then added to the 
others by the CEC.  An opposition CEC member said he saw a 
folder submitted by the UNM, but he was not allowed to verify 
if a list was inside it.  Tarkhnishvili claims that the list 
was accepted normally and stamped "received."  He also 
 
TBILISI 00000707  002 OF 003 
 
 
pointed out that if any party wanted to remove someone from 
their party list after filing it, they can do so up to two 
days before the election.  Tarkhnishvili accused the 
opposition of causing chaos in the CEC offices.  Multiple 
eyewitnesses agree, however, that it is impossible to 
determine if the UNM party list was submitted after the 

deadline or whether the CEC committed errors.  Not 
surprisingly, the Joint Opposition (United National Council 
of Opposition and New Rightists) issued a statement on April 
23 claiming that the UNM election lists were submitted to the 
CEC in "flagrant violation of the law, and the election 
process is already an unlawful and unequal environment."  The 
Labor Party has reportedly sued the CEC over the situation. 
 
6. (C) The Georgian Young Lawyers Association summarized the 
situation, saying the "circumstances create an atmosphere of 
distrust towards the CEC leadership."  This appears to be the 
case.  Deputy ODHIR EOM leader Stefan Krause pointed out his 
disappointment and dissatisfaction to Tarkhnishvili in an 
OSCE Technical Working Group meeting on April 23. 
Tarkhnishvili did not respond to Krause's request for an 
explanation but only restated that all party lists were found 
together in the second locked room. 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
IATF Reshuffles, Minister-Candidates to Resign 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
7. (U) On April 23, Minister of Justice Nika Gvaramia and 
State Minister for Regional Coordination Issues Davit 
Tkeshelashvili announced their resignations from the 
government IATF in order to campaign on behalf of the UNM. 
Reportedly, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Eka Zguladze 
will now chair the IATF.  Other ministers nominated as UNM 
parliamentary candidates must also resign.  Ministers 
announced as candidates by the UNM include Davit Bakradze, 
Foreign Minister; Koba Subeliani, State Minister for Refugees 
and Accommodation; Zaza Gamtsemlidze, Minister of 
Environment; Petre Tsiskarishvili, Minister of Agriculture. 
As of April 23, only Gamtsemlidze and Bakradze had announced 
their resignations. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
Less Intimidation, Appeal Process in Motion 
------------------------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) At an OSCE Technical Working Group meeting on April 
23, Transparency International of Georgia reported that some 
cases of intimidation have been reported in the regions in 
the pre-election campaign.  However, they noted that such 
reports are noticeably fewer than prior to the January 5 
presidential election.  Other NGOs, including GYLA and ISFED, 
have also noted some cases of election law violations, and 
GYLA appealed two such violations to court.  Their appeals 
were denied, and the resons for the decision have yet to be 
released.  ISFED has recorded some instances of local 
officials approaching teachers and identifying those who may 
support the opposition.  USAID-funded IFES pointed out the 
necessity for NGOs to carefully distinguish between cases of 
election promises and bribery during their reporting. 
Meanwhile, the CEC reported that eight complaints were filed 
at the precinct commissions and eight CEC decisions were 
appealed in court.  Of the court cases, two were decided in 
favor of the plaintiffs, one was withdrawn by a plaintiff, 
and three were dismissed on the lack of grounds. 
 
9.  Deputy Minister of the Interior Eka Zguladze told 
visiting EUR/CARC director Paul Wohlers on August 21 that she 
is aware of a few complaints of intimidation or interference 
with campaigning.  She said that in the prior election, the 
government had recognized that such complaints had been hard 
to investigate, especially in villages.  She said that where 
police chiefs are part of families and communities it was 
hard to get the cooperation of witnesses.  Therefore, the 
government has reassigned all chiefs of police to new regions 
and has also rotated some deputy chiefs out of their home 
districts, in order to encourage better reporting and 
investigation of complaints.  Zguladze added that a number of 
ordinary criminal cases have been pulled into a political 
context when the defendants claim they are being targeted for 
their political activities.  (Comment:  The news about 
intimidation on balance is positive.  The NGOs are watching 
the election closely, and so far, problems seem to be fewer 
than in December.  Furthermore, this indicates that 
participants are working within the revamped system to 
address problems.  End comment.) 
 
----------------------------------- 
Latvian, Georgian CECs to Cooperate 
----------------------------------- 
 
 
TBILISI 00000707  003 OF 003 
 
 
9. (U) The CEC announced that they signed a three-year 
agreement with the Latvian Election Commission on April 22. 
The agreement foresees cooperation, exchanges, and technical 
assistance between the two CECs to strengthen Georgia's 
election code and administrative capacity.  The agreement 
recognizes the ultimate importance of protecting citizens' 
right to participate in democracy, and envisages cooperation 
on election legislation, regulation, organization of parties, 
technical expert cooperation, and material assistance. 
 
------------------- 
PACE Team to Return 
------------------- 
 
10. (U) The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 
(PACE) announced that it will send a pre-election 
fact-finding mission, again led by Matyas Eorsi, to Georgia 
from April 23 to 25.  The election observation mission (EOM) 
will be led by Eorsi and Kastriot Islami.  The two also led 
PACE's EOM for the January election. 
 
---------------------------------------- 
Saakashvili's Offers Opposition Meetings 
---------------------------------------- 
 
11. (SBU) On the evening of April 23, President Saakashvili 
addressed the opposition in light of recent tension with 
Russia.  In the live television address, he called upon the 
opposition leaders to "have a joint position on fundamental 
issues of national security.  I offer them systematic 
meetings to provide them with updated information and to 
secure their maximum inclusion during this very important 
time."  (Comment:  It remains to be seen how many, if any, 
opposition parties will agree to the President's offer. Trust 
between the opposing sides remains low.  End comment.) 
TEFFT

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