08TBILISI830, RULING PARTY SET TO WIN MAJORITY IN GEORGIAN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI830 2008-05-20 15:43 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8783
PP RUEHBW RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0830/01 1411543
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201543Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9475
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000830 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/20/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: RULING PARTY SET TO WIN MAJORITY IN GEORGIAN 
PARLIAMENT 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary:  As the election campaign wraps up its final 
day, Post predicts that President Saakashvili's ruling United 
National Movement (UNM) party will easily win a majority of 
the 150 seats in Georgia's May 21 parliamentary elections. 
The UNM may even win the 100 seats needed to obtain a 
constitutional majority, although President Saakashvili has 
told us he prefers to receive a smaller majority to allow 
more opposition parties to enter into Parliament.  UNM's 
political consulting company, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (GQR), 
told the international media May 19 that its latest polls 
show UNM obtaining 54 percent of likely votes.  Before a 
single vote has been cast, the Joint Opposition has called 
for rallies and protests "if the results are rigged," and 
defined that as the UNM winning more than about 80 seats. 
The potential for sporadic violence after the elections 
remains high, despite the fact that NGOs assess the 
pre-election period and election administration as improved 
over January's presidential election.  The government is 
ready to respond to any provocations.  End Summary. 
 
UNM Poised to Win Big 
--------------------- 
 
2. (C) As the election campaign wraps up its final day, Post 
predicts that President Saakashvili's ruling UNM party will 
easily win a majority of the 150 seats in Georgia's May 21 
parliamentary elections.  Our assessment is that UNM will 
likely win 56 of the 75 majoritarian seats as well as 
approximately 44 of the 75 party-list seats, likely giving 
UNM around 100 seats -- the number needed for a 
constitutional majority.  A variety of sources agree with 
this assessment.  On May 19, UNM-pollster, Greenberg Quinlan 
Rosner (GQR) released to the international media (Georgian 
media is prohibited from publishing poll results within 48 
hours of the election) its final, nation-wide poll results 
before the election.  After allocating undecided voters who 
are likely to vote (19 percent), GQR believes that the UNM 
would currently take 54 percent of the party list vote, the 
Joint Opposition 19 percent, Giorgi Targamadze's 
Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) 17 percent, Labor 6 
percent, and the Republicans less than the threshold at 4 
percent.  The UNM is polling at 56 percent of the vote 
nationwide in the 75, single-mandate majoritarian races.  GQR 
believes that if their survey results are indicative of the 
final vote, UNM would have a strong majority in the next 
Parliament, and potentially a two-thirds majority. 
 
3. (C) There are a lot of reasons for UNM's likely strong 
showing in the elections.  UNM has the incumbent advantage 
and historically voters in Georgia, and especially in the 
regions, vote for the incumbent party.  In addition, UNM 
possesses a significant financial advantage.  Although the 
opposition parties are visibly campaigning more than during 
the Presidential elections in January, UNM's number 5 
candidates are much more visible on billboards and posters in 
the capital.  In the regions, UNM campaigned sooner and 
harder than any other party.  The only party that came close 
was Giorgi Targamadze's Christian Democrats, and his party's 
steady rise in the polls indicate that he has used wisely the 
USAID-funded training from the International Republican 
Institute (IRI).  Finally, UNM's trump card is President 
Saakashvili himself, who has taken center stage in the media 
recently on a whole host of issues from Abkhazia to 
elections.  His popularity according to GQR polls remains in 
the stratospheric 80 percent -- despite the domestic crisis 
of last year.  The unpopularity of the opposition cannot be 
overstated.  Although IRI estimated the Joint Opposition 
leader Levan Gachechiladze's popularity in January as 60 
percent, GQR said it stood at 19 percent on May 19.  We 
attribute this fall to the fact that people are tired of the 
threats of violence and unending protests that have become 
synonymous with the opposition.  One big disappointment is 
that the Republican Party, one of the more moderate forces in 
the opposition, is not polling high enough to get seats in 
Parliament on the party list ballot.  They may receive a few 
seats in majoritarian contests, but it will take 7 seats in 
the new Parliament to form a faction. 
 
The Joint Opposition, Ready to Rumble 
------------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) The Joint Opposition, the 9-party election bloc, 
composed of the United National Council of Opposition (UNC) 
and New Rightists, continues to appeal to the streets in the 
waning days of the campaign.  In addition to two Joint 
Opposition affiliated protests that turned violent, one of 
which was staged at the home of the CEC Chair, leader 
Gachechiladze announced the Joint Opposition's plan to rally 
 
TBILISI 00000830  002.3 OF 002 
 
 
at the Central Election Commission at 11 p.m. on May 21 to 
"release the real election results."  Conservative Joint 
Opposition leader MP Zviad Dzidziguri reportedly told IRI &#x000
A;that his election bloc is prepared to accept a UNM victory of 
around 80 seats.  However, if early indications show 
significantly more seats for the UNM, the UNC protests may 
turn violent.  Dzidziguri said UNC supporters could enter the 
CEC and burn protocols in an attempt to force a new election. 
 IRI also reported that UNM officials in Samegrelo region -- 
where some predicted potential violence by the opposition -- 
have not responded to negative campaigning by the Joint 
Opposition.  IRI believes that if Samegrelo remains calm, 
violence in Tbilisi may be more likely.  (Note:  The CEC will 
operate from two locations on Election Night with OSCE Office 
of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) 
representatives at both locations.  End note.) 
 
5. (C) In addition to pressing the OSCE Ambassadorial Working 
Group to issue a strong public statement condemning violence 
(emailed to EUR/CARC), and DAS Matt Bryza and the 
Ambassador's warnings to opposition leaders, Post has raised 
with the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) the forecast of 
potential violence and asked for the Georgian Government's 
plan in response.  The MOIA plans to disband any protests 
that turn violent or threaten to disrupt the work of the CEC. 
 MOIA Minister Merabishvili is aware of the likely negative 
public perception in the event of an excessive response. 
Still, it appears that opposition expectations for the 
elections are overly rosy and their disappointment with the 
result and penchant for turning to violence makes for a 
combustible combination. 
 
Pre-Election Environment Improved 
--------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) The pre-election environment and the election 
administration are much improved compared to January's 
presidential election.  Both sides have campaigned the past 
two weeks.  The Ambassador saw in Kutaisi on May 18 that nine 
of the top ten candidates had billboards displayed in the 
city (in Tbilisi, UNM billboards still dominate, as they did 
in December).  ODIHR states that the government is much more 
active in trying to promote fair elections, and the number of 
complaints regarding intimidation and the election 
administration are considerably less than four months ago. 
Concern persists that courts are dismissing complaints and 
appeals without review of evidence.  Still, the situation has 
improved overall.  The central actors of the GOG understand 
the importance of these elections and that there is no need 
to cheat.  The regional UNM party leaders may not understand 
this as well, and we expect less professionalism in the 
conduct of the election in the areas outside the capital. 
Based on the experience of the Presidential elections, all 
eyes will be focused on the count and tabulation of the 
results to assess these elections. 
 
Observation and Results 
----------------------- 
 
7. (C) ODIHR has 14 long-term observation teams, and 380 
short-term observers, deployed around the country.  We expect 
ODIHR's Election Observation Mission to make its first 
statement about the election at 5:00 p.m. (local time) on May 
22.  The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will 
issue the statement jointly with ODIHR.  Local, US-funded 
NGOs ISFED and nGnI will be conducting parallel vote 
tabulation (PVT) and parallel turnout tabulation (PTT), which 
will provide for a verification against the final result and 
which should be released sometime on May 22.  The U.S. 
Embassy is joining forces with the UK Embassy to field 38 
observation teams (28 U.S.; 10 UK) spread throughout the 
country, but focused on the minority regions which had 
unusually high turnout rates in the January election.  Half 
of these teams will be static and remain at one Precinct 
Election Commission (PEC) from before the opening through the 
final vote count.  The other half will move from precinct to 
precinct.  We coordinated with the OSCE, other missions, and 
the opposition to identify and prioritize observation at PECs 
which were problematic during the Presidential elections. 
TEFFT

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