08TBILISI926, WHAT THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS MEAN FOR

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI926 2008-06-02 13:44 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8871
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0926/01 1541344
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 021344Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9556
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000926 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR A/S FRIED, DAS BRYZA, EUR/CARC AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: WHAT THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS MEAN FOR 
DEMOCRACY IN GEORGIA 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Introduction and Summary:  Initial results from the 
May 21 Parliamentary elections indicate that President 
Saakashvili's ruling United National Movement (UNM) will 
receive an overwhelming majority in the new Parliament, 
taking some 120 out of 150 seats.  Three factors appear to 
have contributed to this sweeping victory:  UNM had a 
better-financed, better-organized and more appealing 
campaign, opposition supporters did not go to the polls, and 
the new electoral system favored the stronger party.  What 
does this mean for Georgia?  In the short term, this result 
will prolong the tensions between the ruling party and the 
opposition as the opposition tries to grapple with its 
crushing loss at the polls.  We are pressing the opposition 
to move their fight from the streets to the Parliament and 
the ruling party to give the opposition real power in 
Parliament, despite its majority.  In the longer term, this 
result will allow reform to continue apace but will not 
contribute to some of the important steps needed to further 
consolidate democracy here, such as a multi-party Parliament 
that acts as a real check on the Executive.  This will take 
time and requires continued U.S. support.  We believe that a 
combination of factors will move Georgia in this direction, 
including the rise of new political parties as they begin to 
jockey for position during President Saakashvili's second 
(and final) term of office.  Georgia is a vibrant democracy, 
but its democratic roots are shallow.  Georgia needs 
continued U.S. and Western help to deepen these roots, 
especially by helping Georgia create the checks and balances 
needed in every democracy.  End summary. 
 
2. (C) Initial results from the May 21 Parliamentary 
elections indicate that President Saakashvili's ruling United 
National Movement (UNM) will receive an overwhelming majority 
in the new Parliament, taking some 120 out of 150 seats.  It 
is a stunning victory for the party led by the President 
following last fall's domestic crisis, the hotly-contested 
Presidential election in January and the agonizing and 
vitriolic debate between the ruling party and the opposition 
since then.  Why did the UNM win so decisively, despite the 
challenges of the last seven months?  We can point to three 
factors.  First, the UNM simply ran a better-financed, 
better-organized and more appealing campaign.  While the 
opposition focused on pointed, personal attacks on Government 
officials, UNM's repeated refrain was an issues-based 
campaign focused on the theme of Saakashvili's second term, 
"Georgia without Poverty."  One of the key aspects of this 
campaign is the UNM's pledge to raise pensions to 100 USD 
this summer.  This is a popular reform.  At the same time, 
UNM's campaign defeated all other parties in terms of funding 
and sheer organization.  Spending some 15 million Georgian 
Lari (10.27 million USD), UNM candidates appeared on 
billboards throughout the capital, and the UNM was the only 
party - with the exception in places of Giorgi Targamadze's 
Christian Democratic Party - to have offices and staff in 
every part of the country for weeks prior to the election. 
 
3. (C) A second factor of the UNM's victory is the simple 
fact that opposition supporters did not go to the polls. 
Overall, some 150,000 fewer voters voted for the opposition 
in the Parliamentary elections than in the Presidential 
elections.  In Tbilisi alone, ruling party officials claim 
that the opposition lost 50,000 supporters, while the UNM 
picked up 10,000.  There is some question as to why.  Were 
voters disillusioned by the never ending protests of the 
opposition as many ruling party members suggest, or did 
voters simply believe that their vote would not impact the 
outcome of the elections?  It is likely a bit of both. 
Ruling party members also attribute the loss of opposition 
votes in the cities to the passing of oligarch Badri 
Patarkatsisvili, whose money they believe helped to keep at 
least some of the opposition afloat and whose absence from 
the scene leaves the opposition in disarray.  They also note 
that opposition leader Davit Gamkrelidze's marked turn toward 
a radical, hard line approach after joining with the Joint 
Opposition pushed some of the more moderate parts of his 
support toward the UNM.  Finally, when you ask people on the 
street how they voted and why, even those who do not like the 
UNM say they voted for it because it is seen as the one party 
that can get things done and change their lives for the 
better. 
 
4. (C) A third and important factor of UNM's victory is the 
new electoral system itself, which allocates 75 seats to 
single-seat majoritarian candidates and 75 seats 
proportionally to party list candidates.  This system 
naturally favors the larger parties in a number of ways. 
Primarily, the system diminishes the impact of the vote in 
the cities (where the opposition is stronger) as the 
 
TBILISI 00000926  002 OF 002 
 &#x
000A; 
allocation of seats is done by district rather than by 
population.  The disparity is wide, with Lentekhi District 
representing 5,942 voters and Kutaisi District representing 
153,688.  Unlike the U.S. system, both types of MPs - 
majoritarian and party list - are in the same parliamentary 
body, which equalizes their power.  The OSCE's initial 
election report highlights this issue as a point of concern. 
There are other factors which make the majoritarian system 
favor the larger parties -- it requires parties run 
candidates in 75 different districts and the 30% threshold 
for victory means that parties needed to capture a 
significant percentage of the vote.  The results bear this 
out:  71 out of 75 of the majoritarian seats will go to the 
UNM.  Comparing the current system to the 100 party list/50 
majoritarian seat configuration favored by the opposition, 
the International Republican Institute believes that the 
opposition would have likely doubled its current seats in 
parliament.  This would change the current 120/30 split 
between the UNM and the opposition seats to something around 
90/60, thereby perhaps not giving the UNM a constitutional 
majority of two-thirds of the seats. 
 
5.  (C) What does this mean for Georgia?  In the short term, 
this will prolong the tensions between the ruling party and 
the opposition as the opposition tries to grapple with its 
crushing loss at the polls.  Our view is that the opposition 
has an outsized perception of its level of public support and 
of the appeal of its revolutionary (and increasingly 
anti-American/anti-Western) rhetoric.  The parallel vote 
tabulations conducted by local NGOs (and funded by USAID) are 
consistent with the election results.  At some point, the 
opposition will need to take the fight from the streets to 
the Parliament.  We are encouraging them in this direction in 
separate meetings with some of the key leaders.  At the same 
time, we are encouraging the Government to offer the 
opposition some guarantees that it will have real power in 
Parliament.  We understand this is now taking place, with the 
ruling party offering for example to lower the minimum number 
of MPs needed to form a faction from 10 to 6 or 7 and to give 
opposition leaders a Vice Speaker position as well as Deputy 
Chair and Chair positions on some parliamentary committees. 
Saakashvili has twice since the election publicly reached out 
to the opposition.  Steps such as these could give substance 
to his good public statements. 
 
6. (C) In the long run, the UNM's overwhelming victory in 
Parliament will allow reform in Georgia to continue apace. 
This is a positive result for U.S. interests.  We will be 
pressing for early adoption of the Criminal Procedure Code, a 
key element to advancing judicial reform and independence. 
Still, one of the evolutionary steps that is needed to deepen 
democracy in Georgia is a multi-party Parliament that acts as 
a real check on the Executive -- although not so much so that 
that reform stops altogether.  This will take time and is 
something that the U.S. should continue to support through 
diplomacy and assistance.  We believe it likely that a 
combination of factors including the rise of new political 
parties such as the one presumably to be formed by former 
Speaker Nino Burjanadze and the likely further break-up of 
the ruling party will help move Georgia in this direction. 
We will need to continue to emphasize to the Government and 
the ruling party in Parliament the importance of multi-party 
systems and strong parliaments to established democracies. 
Part of this process will be finding consensus with the 
opposition on the future electoral system.  The key with the 
opposition will be helping it see it has a stake in the 
success of Georgian democracy and that part of that success 
is seeing Georgia resolve disputes through the democratic 
institutions of the state rather than -- as it has for every 
Presidential transition except the last -- through some form 
of perceived revolution. 
TEFFT

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