08TBILISI743, REPUBLICANS COOL BUT RESIGNED TO NATIONAL MOVEMENT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI743 2008-05-02 14:42 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4118
RR RUEHBW RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0743/01 1231442
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 021442Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9391
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000743 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/29/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: REPUBLICANS COOL BUT RESIGNED TO NATIONAL MOVEMENT 
DOMINANCE 
 
REF: TBILISI 707 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, reason 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: David Usupashvili, Chairman of the Republican 
Party of Georgia, spoke on April 23 with EUR/CARC Director 
Paul Wohlers.  Usupashvili regretted the decision of Nino 
Burjanadze not to run for a parliamentary seat because it 
sets up a confrontation between the radical wing of the 
United National Movement (UNM) and the radical opposition. 
The Republican Party hopes to pick up a few of Burjanadze's 
disappointed supporters and garner 3-15% of the vote. 
However, Usupashvili sees his party as handicapped by its 
reluctance to join the United Opposition, which leaves an 
impression the party is too close to President Saakashvili. 
Usupashivili finds both the UNM's party list candidates, and 
its candidates for the majoritarian seats to be uninspiring. 
He fears the failure to grant a Membership Action Plan to 
Georgia at Bucharest raises the chances that Russia will try 
to foment trouble in the upcoming elections to ensure no MAP 
will be granted in December or later.  Wohlers met supporters 
of a Republican Party activist from the Azerbaijani-minority 
town of Sadakhlo, whom Usupashvili said had been arrested for 
his political activism.  The conversation revealed that the 
true facts and the connection to the activists political 
views were far from clear.  End Summary. 
 
2. (C) Usupashvili said that in his view, matters in the 
pre-election period are developing in the wrong direction. 
He is concerned about the decision of the Speaker of 
Parliament, Nino Burjanadze, not to run in the May 21 
election.  The opposition's hopes were on Burjanadze to help 
President Saakashvili learn from his mistakes in November and 
to change the electoral system.  However, he said, the 
government ultimately broke its agreement to make the 
electoral changes, hammered out with Burjanadze after the 
January presidential elections.  Burjanadze's departure 
leaves voters a choice of the radical pro-Saakashvili UNM and 
the radical anti-Saakashvili opposition.  A small percentage 
of Burjanadze's supporters will gravitate to the Republicans, 
Usupashvili hopes. 
 
3. (C) Usupashvili was not impressed by the UNM's list of 
candidates for the 75 seats to be chosen by proportional, 
party-list vote.  To him, the UNM's list looks a bit like 
Shevardnadze's list in the 1999 elections.  It contains 
persons Usupashvili regards as Zviadists (Gamsakhurdia 
supporters) who have little understanding of open, Western 
ideas and orthodox nationalists.  He thinks the list is not a 
signal of a clean election to come or a clear signal of the 
UNM's party program.  Others on the list were, as Usupashvili 
sees it, responsible for the troubles of November 2007. 
While Saakashvili confidant Giga Bokeria is off the list, 
others, like Givi Targamadze, Nika Rurua and Khatuna 
Goghishvili remain.  Referring to the April 21 fracas over 
the presentation of the UNM's party list (reftel) as a bad 
start to the election campaign, Usupashvili wondered how 
anyone could expect a fair election process.  Usupashvili 
said the Central Election Commission lost a great deal of 
credibility because of that incident.  He cannot understand 
why people who know Georgia well (read USG officials) are 
doing nothing. 
 
4. (C) In the 75 single mandate districts, Usupashvili said 
eighty percent of the candidates are businessmen, whom 
Saakashvili has pressured into running because he cannot get 
"respected politicians" in their districts.  In two cases, 
Usupashvilis said, the businessman-candidates have offered to 
finance Republican Party candidates because they want to lose 
and return to their businesses.  Overall, he predicts the 
opposition will win 60% of the proportional seats and 50% of 
the majoritarian, single mandate seats.   The Republicans 
will garner 3-15% of the vote, he thinks.  He says that the 
Republicans will not do well if they campaign on the issues 
rather than an anti-Saakashvili line.  But the party faces a 
dilemma, because if it takes a hard line against Saakashvili, 
the electorate will wonder why they are not part of the 
United Opposition.  As it is, by not joining the opposition, 
the Republicans' image has suffered from being seen as in 
league with Saakashvili and with the Americans. 
 
5. (C) Usupashvili thinks the failure to secure a Membership 
Action Plan at Bucharest gave power to Russia by making a 
fair election a condition for NATO membership.  Usupashvili 
estimates that at least four parties contending in the May 21 
election are directed from Moscow.  The temptation will be 
strong for the the Russians to interfere and make the 
election a "shameful" event.  He added that by provoking a 
"small war" in Abkhazia, the Russians can change the status 
quo, which in turn would give the West a reason to change its 
 
TBILISI 00000743  002 OF 002 
 
 
heretofore steadfast support for Georgia's sovereignty over 
the territory. 
 
6. (C) In the end, Usupashvili said, the UNM has only 
repression, administrative resources and money to achieve 
victory.  While the meeting was taking place, Usupashvili 
received a report of the arrest of a protester outside the 
President's office, Irakli Kakabadze, which Usupashvili found 
illustrative.  Then Usupashvili complained that a Republican 
Party organizer in the Azerbaijani minority town of Sadakhlo 
was arrested, ostensibly for not paying back a loan to a 
bank, but in reality for his political activities.  He also 
complained about police circulating around Republican Party 
offices in Marneuli, Bolnisi and other Azerbaijani minority 
towns.  It later turned out that Kakabadze was arrested for 
painting grafitti on the Chancery building and his intention 
was very likely to provoke an arrest.  Wohlers had a chance 
to meet supporters of the Republican Party organizer from 
Sadakhlo, and the conversation showed that the person in 
question was indeed in arrears on his loan and the bank was 
the German-owned Pro-Credit Bank, which we regard as an 
unlikely conduit for UNM pressure.  In short, the situation 
was far from crystal clear and the debtor's Republican Party 
activism may not have been the source of his troubles as 
Usupashvili assumed. 
 
7.  (U) Paul Wohlers did not have a chance to clear this 
telegram. 
TEFFT

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