08TBILISI935, DAS BRYZA MEETS WITH CIVIL SOCIETY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI935 2008-06-04 07:00 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO0651
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0935/01 1560700
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 040700Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9572
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000935 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR DAS BRYZA, EUR/CARC AND DRL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/04/2018 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: DAS BRYZA MEETS WITH CIVIL SOCIETY 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
 1. (C) Summary. On May 9, EUR DAS Matt Bryza, Ambassador 
Tefft and EU Representative Peter Semneby met with leading 
members of Georgian civil society.  During a wide ranging 
lunch discussion, they discussed the upcoming May 21 
Parliamentary elections and the current tension in Abkhazia. 
Much of the discussion focused on the challenges that they 
government needs to meet in order for the upcoming elections 
to be free and fair and meet western standards.  In general, 
NGOs noted that progress has been made, since the 
presidential elections but also noted that significant 
challenges remain.  One of the biggest challenges is a 
general lack of trust by the people in the institutions of 
government; however, most NGOs agreed that the opposition 
remains weak and not a viable alternative to the current 
leadership.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C) Eka Siradze of International Society for Free 
Elections and Democracy (ISFED) spoke about the challenges 
that remain to prepare for a better election. ISFED will be 
active in all three phases of the election campaign 
(pre-election, election day, and post election). They will 
have 75 observers on the ground on election day and are 
planning to monitor the post-election period closely with the 
Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) for 48 hours after 
the election.  They identified serious problems that have to 
ameliorated in order for the parliamentary elections to be 
significantly improved.  Without addressing these challenges 
a serious lack of trust in the voting process will remain 
among the electorate - which they fear could lead to civil 
unrest. In particular, they are concerned by a lack of 
transparency in the Central Election Commission (CEC), by the 
decision to not allow the Public Defender to have copies of 
the videotapes made at polling places in the January 
election, and by problems that remain in the voters' lists. 
In fact, the tapes used in the January election will be 
re-used for the Parliamentary elections, and thus erased - 
ending any chance of examination. She claimed voter trust is 
very low because of these problems. 
 
3. (C) ISFED has been especially focused on the voters' list, 
Much progress has been made to improve the list since 
January, when 80.000 extra voters were registered on election 
day.  Of these 80,000 additions, 53,000 were found to be 
double entries, and some underage citizens were on the list. 
More sophisticated software is needed to comb the civil 
registry, and this will be purchased after the election. 
Many rumors about the voters' lists are still commonly heard, 
and these rumors are alone a threat to voter trust. 
 
4. (C) Giorgi Chkeidze of GYLA spoke next, stating that trust 
is a very basic problem in Georgian society and is a 
pre-condition for further democratic development.  GYLA is 
actively involved in all three phases of this election 
campaign.  In the pre-election they drafted an understanding 
which all parties signed which called for people to work 
through a standard grievance procedure, and let the system 
work rather than taking arguments to the streets. Now they 
are actively investigating accusations of intimidation and 
pressure, as well as claims of abuse of administrative 
resources by the government.  There are very many claims by 
the opposition, but in general so far there have been little 
in the way of concrete examples of intimidation - with the 
exception of a recent case in which Valeri Giorobiani a UNM 
candidate was forced to withdraw after an audiotape of him 
threatening government employees if he did not receive an 80% 
turnout from their district.  On that case, Chkeidze observed 
that if the government wants to convince the voters of real 
progress in election reform the Giorgobiani needs to be 
convicted by the courts and not just withdraw.  In other high 
profile cases, GYLA is also concerned that cases are reported 
as being "in the courts" but no convictions ever occur. GYLA 
is also concerned that good amendments were made to the 
election code that the process was not transparent enough. 
Public trust has been eroded because the public does not feel 
that the court system properly evaluated appeals by GYLA and 
other groups.  When all appeals were so quickly rejected 
after January it eroded their argument that the opposition 
needs to go to the courts and not the streets. 
 
5. (C)  Shalva Pickhadze of Georgia for NATO, and an informal 
advisor to New Rights leader Gamkrelidze, observed that the 
greatest threat to democracy in Georgia is that the citizens 
of Tbilisi feel that no legal means can change the situation. 
 He elucidated three major mistakes that the government has 
recently made which exacerbated this situation: 1. The 
Parliament is supposed to hear the report of the Public 
Defender, but they refused to (though the President did).  2. 
The Public Defender was not allowed to take the election day 
videotapes out of the CEC offices - so he could not fully 
 
T
BILISI 00000935  002 OF 003 
 
 
examine them. 3. The CEC decided to re-use the videotapes 
used in January, which will erase them and so put the January 
election beyond re-examination. 
 
6. (C) DAS Bryza observed that in spite of this, the most 
recent polls show that the UNM has gained support in recent 
days, while the opposition support seems to be largely 
vanishing.  Tamuna Karosanidze of Transparency International 
(TI) observed that the public has very low confidence in 
polls, and feels that the recent Rosner poll is flawed 
because they advise the government.  However she did agree 
that the opposition seems to have lost much of its national 
following, and that in fact they seem to be 
self-destructively running many of their strongest candidates 
against each other in a way that seems to raise the 
possibility of an even stronger government showing.  In 
general the public seems to be very disappointed with the 
opposition - especially with Levan Gachechiladze of the UOC 
who seems to lose support with every new intemperate public 
statement. 
 
7. (C) Konstantine Ionatamishvili of New Generation New 
Initiatives (NGNI) stated that they will have 1,500 election 
observers in every region, including the conflict zones and 
ethnic minority regions.  He is confident that the upcoming 
election will be better than January's election.  Problem 
areas included a lack of responsiveness on the part of the 
CEC, use of administrative resources by the government, and 
remaining problems with the voters' list.  NGNI is 
undertaking a Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) with USG 
support, and he is sure that this will increase voter 
confidence in the election results. 
 
8. (C) Tamuna Karosanidze of TI spoke about the trends that 
they are seeing in this election.  In general, there are some 
of the same problems that occurred in the last election - but 
at a much smaller scale, and probably by local leaders rather 
than being directed by the central government. Thus, some 
abuse of administrative resources remains but there are now 
definitions of what can and what can not be done, and there 
is attention paid by the media and others to potential abuse. 
 In general the state of the media is much better in this 
election - especially Public Television, which has greatly 
improved since a new Board (which includes opposition 
representation) and Director was named. Imedi's absence is a 
problem, not because they were objective -but because they 
balanced the non-objective other stations.  There needs to be 
a more professional media in Georgia. 
 
9. (C) In a general discussion of the abuse of administrative 
resources Ambassador Tefft observed that there is a lack of 
clear definition of what administrative resources can and can 
not be used - even among western democracies.  Thus in some 
countries candidates can not even be offered police 
protection.  Part of this is the value of incumbency - which 
is always a part of politics. 
 
10. (C) Ambassador Alexander Rondeli of the Georgian 
Foundation for International and Strategic Studies (GFSIS), 
observed that in general frustration is wide spread - but 
tension is less.  "There is more fatigue and passivity in the 
society." The current events in Abkhazia are probably helping 
the government, but in the end the government will win 
because the opposition is very weak and is losing what trust 
they had among the population.  He worries that the 
opposition will lose and try to bring people out on the 
streets, but is certain that this tactic will also fail. The 
bottom line is that Georgia "lacks a political culture." 
November's events showed a lack of trust in the government 
that might have lead to instability, but now there is 
stability, unless the government "does something really 
terrible". 
 
11. (C) In discussing the recent events in Abkhazia DAS Bryza 
outlined what these events mean and what the next steps 
forward need to be to resolve this conflict and get 
discussions back on track.  The NATO summit in Bucharest was 
a real triumph but Russia is now reacting to that progress 
and the recognition of Kosovo. The good news is that the west 
now clearly sees that Georgia is not being the problem in 
Abkhazia - that Russia is causing the current problems.  The 
Georgian government has been remarkably restrained, but 
Russia has demonstrated that they are not acting as 
facilitators, but as a party to the conflict.  It is clear 
that the friends of Georgia process is not functioning, so 
DAS Bryza is going to focus on three issues that really 
matter:  the return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); 
the Abkhaz need for physical, political, and cultural 
security, and an elaboration of the autonomous status of 
Abkhazia within the state of Georgia.  A new forum needs to 
be built that can allow the proposals made recently by the 
 
TBILISI 00000935  003 OF 003 
 
 
Georgian government to go forward and be discussed - perhaps 
a forum of Black Sea nations ,the current Group of Friends, 
the OSCE, EU, UN, and possibly others.  CIS peacekeepers are 
not in Abkhazia to provide protection to IDPs, and Russia 
should not be in a position to block progress on resolving 
the conflict by standing in the way of direct Georgian-Abkhaz 
talks. 
 
12. (U) DAS Bryza cleared this cable. 
TEFFT

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