08TBILISI775, ODIHR TELLS AMBASSADORS: SO FAR, SO GOOD ON

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI775 2008-05-08 16:47 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8785
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBW RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0775/01 1291647
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081647Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9432
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000775 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: ODIHR TELLS AMBASSADORS: SO FAR, SO GOOD ON 
GEORGIAN ELECTIONS 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary:  ODIHR's Election Observation Mission (EOM) 
monitoring Georgia's parliamentary elections briefed the 
Diplomatic Corps on May 8.  The EOM said neither the 
government nor opposition was pleased with its first interim 
report, suggesting its balance was accurate.  Overall, ODIHR 
Head of Mission Ambassador Boris Frlec said the election 
environment, administration, and commitment by the government 
to hold fair elections is much improved.  Deputy Head of 
Mission Stefan Krause, who was here in January, said things 
are notably better than during the presidential election. 
Concern persists with a highly polarized campaign, 
inexcusable behavior by some opposition politicians, and an 
abiding mistrust in the electoral process among the 
opposition.  Frlec said the opposition's criticisms regarding 
imbalance in media coverage and problems with the voters' 
list appear legitimate.  Krause said they have again received 
complaints of intimidation in the regions, but these are 
notably fewer than before the last election and have little 
corroborating evidence.  Still, ODIHR believes the most 
critical threat to the integrity of the election remains in 
the tabulation and reporting procedures that will take place 
after Election Day.  ODIHR reiterated its promise to maintain 
a vigilant watch throughout the entire process.  End Summary. 
 
ODIHR Pleases Neither Side 
-------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) ODIHR's Election Observation Mission (EOM) 
monitoring Georgia's parliamentary elections briefed the 
Diplomatic Corps on May 8.  The EOM said its first interim 
observation report, released on April 30, was criticized by 
both the government (as too harsh) and the opposition (for 
not intervening and improving the situation).  ODIHR 
understood this response to mean that its take on the 
situation is pretty accurate.  The second interim report will 
be published on May 14. 
 
Palpable Progress 
----------------- 
 
3. (SBU) Cautioning that ODIHR does not compare elections, 
Krause said the election environment and administration are 
much improved from the January presidential election.  Frlec 
noted positively that the opposition is now campaigning.  The 
EOM appreciated NDI's Code of Conduct, to which most parties 
have agreed.  Frlec said the Central Election Administration 
(CEC) is trying hard to execute its duties.  He praised CEC 
efforts to distribute election information in minority 
languages and hold regular, transparent CEC sessions.  Frlec 
said the voters' list continues to present problems of 
inaccuracy, and this is one of the opposition's most valid 
concerns, although ODIHR does not expect the CEC to fix the 
list at this point.  He said the central government's 
commitment to hold free and fair elections is palpable 
(President Saakashvili and MOIA Merabishvili made strong 
statements recently that free elections are critical to 
Georgia's future).  However, how deeply and widely this 
commitment extends throughout government and ruling party 
structures remains to be seen, said Frlec.  Frlec expressed 
concern that the election code allows government authorities 
to campaign, and was pleased with Presidential and CEC 
statements against such practice. 
 
Problems Remain 
--------------- 
 
4. (SBU) Frlec voiced concern over the highly polarized 
campaign, "shocking" behavior by some opposition politicians, 
and the abiding deep mistrust of the electoral process among 
many in the opposition.  (Frlec noted with dismay that the 
Secretary of the CEC has resorted to wearing a pistol to CEC 
sessions.)  Frlec said most appeals/complaints in the CEC and 
courts so far had been decided without examining any 
evidence.  Another significant concern, per ODIHR, is the 
inequality of media coverage.  Frlec noted the prejudice of 
Mze and Rustavi-2 TV companies (both seen as pro-government) 
against the opposition.  The only platform for the opposition 
is the pro-opposition Kavkasia TV (which itself is seen as 
prejudiced against the government).  Krause said they have 
received notably fewer complaints of intimidation in the 
regions, and very little supporting evidence. 
 
Next Steps 
---------- 
 
5. (SBU) Frlec said the most critical threat to the integrity 
of the election remains in the tabulation and reporting 
procedures that will take place after Election Day.  He 
thought that the transparency and capacity of the CEC, and 
 
TBILISI 00000775  002 OF 002 
 
 
the government's commitment to fair elections, will be put to 
their biggest test at that time.  Krause said ODIHR will 
continue its nationwide observation even after Election Day 
in order to assess the post-election period. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
6. (SBU) ODIHR's assessment that there has been real progress 
since the presidential election largely coincides with the 
Embassy's
.  The CEC also appears to have done what could be 
done to remove inaccuracies from the list before the 
election.  Joint Opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze has 
crossed the line with threats against CEC Chairman 
Tarkhnishvili and others in the campaign.  The OSCE 
Ambassador's Working Group, of which the Ambassador is a 
member, plans to issue a statement noting the responsibility 
of all parties to adhere to the NDI Code of Conduct and that 
violent behavior has no place in a democracy. 
TEFFT

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