08TBILISI756, GEORGIA PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION UPDATE MAY 6

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI756 2008-05-06 14:13 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO6445
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBW RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0756/01 1271413
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061413Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9408
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000756 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION UPDATE MAY 6 
 
REF: TBILISI 726 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  The environment surrounding Georgia's 
parliamentary election campaign degraded during the week. 
The Joint Opposition scuffled outside the Central Election 
Commission (CEC), while their youth wing did the same near 
the CEC Chairman's home.  The Joint Opposition called for 
rallies on May 7 and May 21.  Joint Opposition leaders Kakha 
Kukava and David Gamkrelidze said the current tension with 
Russia over Abkhazia benefits President Saakashvili's party, 
implying it could be intentional.  In Dmanisi, the Precinct 
Election Commission (PEC) Chairman and a United National 
Movement (UNM) coordinator assaulted and wounded two 
opposition-appointed PEC members.  Separately, Tarkhnishvili 
said a CEC representative was assaulted in Isani.  The 
opposition Industrialists complained of intimidation and 
threatened to leave the race.   Pol/Econ Chief encouraged CEC 
Chairman Tarkhnishvili to maintain maximum transparency in 
the election process and ensure a perception of independent 
and inclusive CEC leadership.  USAID offered additional 
training for CEC staff.  On May 2, the DCM raised with 
Minister of Finance Gilauri reports of financial police 
soliciting campaign donations.  The National Democratic 
Institute (NDI) recent pre-election report assesses 
additional action is necessary to restore public confidence 
in the elections.  Imedi TV resumed transmission of non-news 
programming on May 5. End Summary. 
 
Joint Opposition Protests, Calls for More 
----------------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) On the evening of May 1, the Joint Opposition (the 
United National Council of Opposition (UNC) and the New 
Rightists) staged a protest in front of the CEC.  Levan 
Gachechiladze led the protest and called for a rally outside 
the CEC on Election Day, May 21.  He also called for a rally 
before Parliament on May 7, to "Remember November 7."  The 
protest turned into an ugly scuffle, when Gachechiladze and 
his supporters struggled with policemen at the CEC and 
actually tried to nail boards across the building's entrance. 
 Gachechiladze said he would "personally grab Tarkhnishvili 
by the necktie and drag him before the people for judgment if 
he announces rigged results."  Gachechiladze also denounced 
CEC Secretary Gizo Mchedlidze (calling him the "Grey 
Cardinal") and President Saakashvili, saying that the 
opposition would "not tolerate ballot-rigging." 
 
3. (U) On May 2, the youth wing of the Joint Opposition 
staged a protest at the home of CEC Chairman Levan 
Tarkhnishvili.  There, they accused Tarkhnishvili of forging 
the results of the January presidential election.  The 
protest involved some physical confrontation with 
Tarkhnishvili's neighbors, and several activists were taken 
to a hospital for minor injuries.  On May 3, the heads of the 
CEC's seven departments issued a joint statement condemning 
the protest as an intrusion of privacy and unacceptable form 
of protest. 
 
4. (U) Echoing fellow Joint Opposition leader, Salome 
Zourabichvili (reftel), Kakha Kukava and David Gamkrelidze 
said on April 30 and May 1 that current tension with Russia 
over Abkhazia is benefiting the ruling UNM.  They claimed 
such incidents are common prior to recent Georgian elections, 
and implied this could be intentional.  Kukava denounced 
Saakashvili's attention on events in Abkhazia as a "typical 
pre-election public relations stunt" and said such moves were 
to distract the country's attention away from the May 21 
election.  Kukava alleged the expulsion of four Russian spies 
just prior to the 2006 local elections, and the Ganmukhuri 
incident in October 2008 (when Saakashvili visited the border 
and scolded Russian peacekeepers on TV for arresting Georgian 
policemen), served as evidence for his statements. 
 
 
PEC Members Attacked 
-------------------- 
 
5. (U) In Dmanisi District (Kvemo Kartli) on May 1, two 
opposition-appointed Precinct Election Commission (PEC) 
members were assaulted and wounded by the PEC Chairman and a 
UNM party coordinator.  Reportedly, the two UNM 
representatives had forcibly demanded that the two commission 
members "support" the ruling party's majoritarian candidate. 
The two injured persons were taken to the hospital, and the 
two UNM supporters reportedly have resigned their positions 
in the PEC.  The same day, CEC Chairman Tarkhnishvili told 
Emboffs that a CEC representative in the Isani District had 
been physically assaulted by an acting MP.  Tarkhnishvili 
said the victim had reported election violations to the CEC. 
 
 
TBILISI 00000756  002 OF 002 
 
 
Industrialists Threaten to Drop Out 
----------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) The opposition Industrialists party (formerly allied 
with the New Rightists, but now in a separate election bloc) 
complained of intimidation by the ruling party.  On May 1, 
party founder and leader, Gogi
 Topadze, said that the party 
will pull out of the election race if the "authorities 
continue the intimidation of the party's majoritarian MP 
candidates."  Topadze said he would consult with all his 
party's candidates and then make a decision.  (Comment: 
Public support for the Industrialists of late appears to be 
low.  Consequently, it is difficult to ascertain if Topadze's 
party is truly encountering intimidation, or if it is using 
this as a possible pretext to avoid a likely defeat at the 
polls.  End comment.) 
 
No News, Imedi TV Resumes Broadcasting 
-------------------------------------- 
 
7. (U) Imedi TV resumed trial broadcasts on May 5, but will 
not cover any news until after the election on May 21.  The 
channel furthermore said they will not broadcast any 
political news shows until September.  No additional public 
statements have been made by the company regarding its 
ownership since the death of former owner Badri 
Patarkatsishvili.  Reportedly, the fight for control of the 
company between Patarkatsishvili's family and Joseph Kay 
continues. 
 
Emboffs to Tarkhnishvili: Transparency is Critical 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
8. (SBU) Pol/Econ Chief met CEC Chairman Tarkhnishvili on May 
1 and asked him to maintain maximum transparency in the 
election process by posting PEC protocols as they are 
completed onto the CEC website.  She also encouraged 
Tarkhnishvili to ensure a perception of independent and 
inclusive leadership in the CEC.  Further, she noted the 
importance of equal and appropriate access to the CEC for all 
parties.  USAID offered additional training assistance for 
the CEC staff, in order to further bolster public confidence 
in the election administration.  Such training would likely 
include components on complaints procedures, E-Day processes, 
and ethics.  Tarkhnishvili welcomed the offer.  The Chairman 
assured Emboffs that nearly 2,000 PECs will be equipped with 
faxes for the election, and that these faxes will be used to 
send PEC protocols directly to the CEC, where they will be 
immediately posted on the CEC's website.  The CEC continues 
to work with USAID implementing partner IFES on the 
tabulation and reporting plan.  IFES is providing training, 
and material and technical assistance, to the CEC. 
 
DCM Speaks with MOF Gilauri 
--------------------------- 
 
9. (SBU) On May 2, the DCM raised with Minister of Finance 
Nika Gilauri reports of financial police and tax inspectors 
improperly soliciting campaign donations for the UNM from 
medium to large businesses.  Watchdog NGOs had claimed 
reports of threatening companies with audits and possible 
legal issues.  Gilauri said he had also heard of such 
concerns.  He said he had already put the word out against 
any such practices, but he needs specific information to act 
further.  To date, the companies have been unwilling to 
divulge their identities, or to approach the MOF together to 
address the matter.  Post will raise the issue with the 
government's Inter-Agency Task Force as well.  (Comment: 
Notably, the NGO agrees that such reports are still fewer 
than during the January election.  End comment.) 
 
NDI Releases Pre-Election Assessment 
------------------------------------ 
 
10. (U) Also on May 2, the National Democratic Institute 
(NDI) released findings of their pre-election assessment team 
(emailed to EUR/CARC).  The delegation acknowledged positive 
steps made by the government since January.  However, they 
noted concern about the low level of trust between political 
parties and in the election administration.  The report 
points out that the government bears responsibility for a 
viable, trustworthy election capacity.  Still, all parties -- 
including the opposition -- bear responsibility for their 
actions and discourse during the campaign period.  The report 
presents 18 recommendations that generally focus on the 
responsibilities of political parties, the election 
administration, and the media environment. 
TEFFT

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