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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI831 2008-05-20 16:15 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0831/01 1411615
P 201615Z MAY 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000831 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/16/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary: On May 9, EUR DAS Matthew Bryza, Ambassador 
Tefft, and EU Special Representative Peter Semneby met three 
leaders of the Joint Opposition, MP David Gamkrelidze, Salome 
Zourabichvili, and MP Levan Gachechiladze.  Gamkrelidze 
focused on current problems with the election process and 
Saakashvili's alleged "broken promise" to ensure the fair 
elections that Gamkrelidze says are the only remedy to the 
political situation.  He claimed that Saakashvili is 
"preparing people for war" and using tension with Russia for 
long-term public relations gain.  He said international 
observers could help ensure fairness in the election and 
urged them to go to places of concern from the last election; 
the Ambassador said we were planning to do just that. 
Zourabichvili and Gachechiladze accused the UNM of rigging 
the elections and the U.S. of allowing it to happen.  Bryza 
and the Ambassador countered the allegations, pointing to 
ongoing U.S. assistance of some 6 million USD for elections 
in Georgia.  All three opposition leaders denied there was a 
real crisis in Abkhazia, and discounted Russia's April 20 
shooting down of a Georgian UAV.  Bryza told the group that 
violence and threats of violence are unacceptable in a 
democracy.  Semneby added that the EU is also watching events 
in Georgia and is bringing in experts to intensively engage 
Georgian authorities on democratic development and fair 
elections.  End summary. 
Gamkrelidze Details Concerns 
2. (C) On May 9, EUR DAS Matthew Bryza, Ambassador Tefft, and 
EU Special Representative Peter Semneby met with Joint 
Opposition leaders MP David Gamkrelidze (New Rightists), 
Salome Zourabichvili (Georgia's Way), and MP Levan 
Gachechiladze (United National Council of Opposition). 
EUR/CARC Conflicts Advisor Michael Carpenter also attended. 
Gamkrelidze said Saakashvili had created a new constitution 
and electoral system after the January presidential election, 
but had not met any opposition demands.  (Note: This is not 
entirely true.  The GOG did lower the parliamentary threshold 
to 5 percent, added opposition members to the district 
election commissions, and replaced the Director and Board of 
the Georgian Public Broadcaster.  End note.) This led to the 
failed hunger strike that further damaged the opposition. 
Gamkrelidze said the current electoral process is not fair. 
He claimed seven MPs (including himself) were refused access 
to official buildings to observe whether government 
institutions are wrongfully conducting political activity on 
behalf of the ruling United National Movement (UNM).  He also 
said that the cameras monitoring polling stations should be 
focused on those which experienced unusually high turnout 
during the presidential election.  Gamkrelidze claimed people 
are scared, especially of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 
3. (C) Gamkrelidze believed that Saakashvili was manipulating 
events prior to elections in order to gain more votes.  He 
compared current tension over Abkhazia with the 2006 spy 
scandal, when Saakashvili ordered four Russian spies out of 
the country 10 days prior to local elections.  He claimed the 
resulting Russian embargo cost Georgia millions of dollars in 
lost trade.  (Note: Gamkrelidze did not comment on the fact 
that it was Russia that shot down a Georgian drone on April 
20.  End note.)  While not discounting the real danger 
Georgia faced in Abkhazia, Gamkrelidze cautioned that it was 
dangerous to capitalize on international events during an 
election campaign.  He said that although Georgia has had 
competitive elections, they have not had a fair one. 
Gamkrelidze appealed to international bodies to ensure 
fairness this time around, as he insisted truly fair 
elections are the only remedy to the domestic political 
tension.  He asked the international community to monitor the 
areas in which there were problems during the January 5 
presidential elections.  Ambassador Tefft said the Embassy 
was planning to do just that. 
Zourabichvili, Gachechiladze Hurl Rhetoric 
4. (C) Zourabichvili dismissed concerns about Russian actions 
in Abkhazia, claiming that the tension over the current 
situation was "created in Georgia, not Russia."  She alleged 
that the current standoff with Russia is "a ploy between two 
undemocratic countries."  She believes the U.S. is seeing 
only one side as the aggressor and that Russia had been doing 
this for 15 years.  Zourabichvili asserted Saakashvili was 
playing up tensions in Abkhazia for domestic consumption, as 
he cannot win a democratic election otherwise.  She 
questioned why there was no U.S. reaction on Georgia's 
constitutional amendments on Parliamentary representation, 
nor on the creation of single-mandate majoritarian districts. 
TBILISI 00000831  002 OF 003 
 She alleged that people believe the U.S. allowed the UNM to 
rig the presidential elections and are wondering whether the 
U.S. w
ill again this time. 
5. (C) When Bryza asked her to describe her party's platform, 
Zourabichvili said it was to "save Georgia from a 
dictatorship."  Bryza rebutted this as rhetoric, not a 
platform.  Gamkrelidze detailed points of his platform for 
his majoritarian race in Tbilisi's Vake district, including 
preventing a war in Abkhazia, protecting his supporters' 
votes, and stopping Saakashvili's alleged oppression.  Other 
ideas focused on tenets of liberal democracy, such as 
ensuring media freedom, and an independent judiciary and 
6. (C) Gachechiladze blamed Bryza for the lack of coverage of 
his campaign on Mze and Rustavi-2 television channels.  He 
alleged Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava is using his office's 
budget to finance all of the UNM's majoritarian candidates. 
Gachechiladze claimed Interior Minister Merabishvili is 
controlling everything on TV, and that the U.S. is allowing 
this to happen.  He claimed 200,000 people would come into 
the streets after the election to stop Saakashvili's 
government from getting away with unfair elections. 
Ambassador Refutes Arguments 
7. (C) The Ambassador told Gachechiladze that he had missed 
some points.  First, Imedi TV returned to the air in December 
only after DAS Bryza's and the Embassy's intensive efforts. 
He said the Imedi journalists later quit of their own free 
will (after seeing deceased owner Badri Patarkatsishvili 
attempting to co-opt a government official with $100 million 
USD.)  Consequently, it is not the U.S.' fault Imedi TV was 
not broadcasting.  The Ambassador also pointed out that UNM's 
polls show the UNC is losing support, especially after making 
radical threats against the government.  Gachechiladze only 
replied that he thinks 200,000 people will come out on the 
streets.  The Ambassador said Embassy efforts to promote free 
media and fair elections also include recent intervention on 
the denial of Maestro TV's (a company partly owned by 
Gachechiladze's brother) application to broadcast news, and 
public statements by the MOIA and police acknowledging they 
have no role in the election process. 
Bryza: No Violence, No Threats 
8. (C) Bryza told the opposition leaders that violence and 
threats of violence are unacceptable in a democratic election 
and would be opposed by Georgian society.  While the 
opposition was asking the U.S. to judge the campaign, Bryza 
said we must also judge the opposition's statements about 
using violence against government officials.  Gachechiladze 
accused the U.S. of ignoring violent dispersal of protesters 
in Georgia in November 2007 and in Armenia in March following 
the presidential elections.  Bryza countered that his, and 
the Embassy's, statements against the use of violence on 
November 7 were very clear.  Bryza reminded the group that 
violent protests must be kept out of the current election 
process as well, including after the election. 
Bryza: New Forum Needed on Abkhazia 
9. (C) On Abkhazia, Bryza underlined the dangerous position 
into which Russia is putting Georgia.  He said it appears 
Putin has tried to create a win-win for himself by ratcheting 
up the tension with Georgia over the breakaway region.  Given 
the current situation, Bryza said the UN Group of Friends is 
not advancing the peace process and a new, complementary 
forum is needed to provide Georgia with advice and funding 
for the implementation of its peace initiatives for Abkhazia. 
Embassy Observers, Static and Roving 
10. (C) The Ambassador told the opposition leaders we would 
send some 30 teams across the country to observe elections, 
with a focus on the areas where we had seen problems during 
the presidential election.  He noted that our observers would 
combine static teams with roving teams to ensure that teams 
can monitor individual precinct election commissions (PECs) 
from open to close.  Gamkrelidze asked to share his list of 
problematic PECs and the Ambassador said the Embassy would 
review it and use it as a basis to assign teams to the most 
troublesome areas.  (Note: When Gamkrelidze provided this 
list, all but one were already designated to be visited by 
Embassy observers.  End note.)  Zourabichvili said the 
opposition does not trust exit polls.  The Ambassador 
TBILISI 00000831  003 OF 003 
confirmed we will not be funding exit polls.  Rather, U.S. 
assistance is going toward, among other things, Parallel 
Turnout Tabulation and Parallel Vote Tabulation efforts, 
conducted by local NGOs. 
Semneby on EU Efforts 
11. (C) Semneby said the EU is watching internal events and 
Abkhazia closely.  He said the Netherlands had offered to 
bring observers who are well versed in identifying election 
malfeasance.  He said the Speaker of the Polish Senate, 
Bogdan Borusiewicz, is coming to visit Georgia and offer 
support for continuing democratic development.  Semneby noted 
that the opposition was "asking a lot" and while the EU could 
and would help in many areas, some requests were not 
practicable.  Zourabichvili chided Semneby, saying only an 
international observer watching the CEC Chairman all night 
would protect the opposition's votes.  Semneby responded that 
the EU was really trying to offer a facilitation with the 
government and all parties in building democratic 
12. (SBU) After the meeting, Gachechiladze attacked the U.S. 
in the media, saying "They (the U.S.) are lobbying 
Saakashvili's administration, like the Central Committee was 
lobbying its secretaries in Georgia from the Kremlin during 
Soviet times.  We won't take instructions from the U.S."  And 
even before the meeting, Zourabichvili told reporters, "The 
key issue of the meeting will be whether Bryza again plans to 
rig our elections together with Saakashvili or not."  It is 
clear that a decreasingly popular opposition is trying to 
foment anti-Americanism in order to drum up support in the 
elections.  We believe it important to engage them and hear 
out their concerns, but are frustrated by their lack of 
platform or agenda.  Their main platform is anger toward 
Saakashvili, which has dissipated considerably since the 
crisis last fall, according to the most reliable polling. 
While the opposition's support continues to drop -- 
Zourabichvili's party did not even register one percent 
support on the latest IRI poll -- we can expect more attempts 
to lash out at us and others, which we will continue to 
counter with reasoned, fact-based arguments.  End comment. 


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