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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI963 2008-06-09 14:03 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0963/01 1611403
P 091403Z JUN 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000963 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/09/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
1. (C) Summary: As the first meeting of Georgia's next 
Parliament nears on June 10, the Joint Opposition and the 
Labor Party continue to talk about boycotting the new 
Parliament and even blocking access to the building, to 
reinforce their position that the May 21 election was 
invalidated by fraud.  The government promises that illegal 
attempts to blockade the Parliament will be met by force. 
The Republicans, the Christian Democratic Movement (CDM), and 
others are hedging their bets.  They are reluctant to go 
along with boycotts and preventing the Parliament from 
convening (reftel).  Many among the opposition 
candidates-elect are looking for a face-saving way to take up 
seats and are warily evaluating government offers of a 
minority status with true influence and participation in 
executive positions.  A significant remaining question mark, 
which could change the political calculus, involves the 
future plans of outgoing Parliamentary Speaker Nino 
Burjanadze.  She reportedly plans to announce the creation of 
a foundation/think tank on June 9, as the first step in 
creating a new political party and running for President in 
2013.  End Summary. 
NDI Holds Roundtables with Opposition 
2. (C) On June 3, Mary O'Hagan, Chief of Party of the 
USAID-funded National Democratic Institute (NDI), held a 
roundtable for opposition parties elected to Parliament on 
May 21.  Representatives were present from the Joint 
Opposition, the CDM, and Labor.  The roundtable was designed 
to discuss realistic demands the opposition could put forth, 
which, if met by the government, could allow those opposition 
members-elect to take their seats in Parliament.  O'Hagan 
reported that after four hours of deliberation, the leaders 
finally came up with some ideas, but not a consensus on 
supporting them.  She noted a lack of confidence and 
imagination on the leaders' parts, but said they did brighten 
somewhat after realizing that things might improve if they 
join Parliament.  Further discussions followed and appear to 
be continuing (to be reported septel).  Some ideas the 
participants offered included: 
-- No changes to the constitution without the opposition's 
-- Improving the election system (i.e. equaling the 
constituencies of the majoritarian districts, bringing 
forward local elections, or thoroughly investigating and 
holding accountable those responsible for intimidation and 
-- International involvement in monitoring the media between 
-- Changing the rules in Parliament to encourage opposition 
participation and responsibility (i.e. reducing the 
requirements for forming a faction, offering Deputy Speaker 
positions and committee chairmanships to opposition MPs, 
appointing an opposition MP to head the Chamber of Control 
and creating a committee to review past expenditures). 
-- Appointing some opposition members to Deputy Minister 
positions in the executive branch. 
Targamadze and Gamsakhurdia Look Ahead 
3. (C) On June 3, Dmitri Shashkin (please strictly protect) 
of the International Republican Institute of Georgia (IRI) 
briefed Poloff on his recent conversations with members of 
the opposition parties elected to Parliament, including the 
CDM.  (Note: IRI has been funded by USAID for several years 
to provide political party training in Georgia.  End note.) 
He said the CDM leader, Giorgi Targamadze, will likely not 
attend the first session of Parliament.  However, he does not 
expect the CDM to join in a blockade of Parliament on the 
10th.  Unless a breakthrough occurs, Shashkin claimed 
Targamadze may tour the regions this summer (during the slow 
months, when Parliament is in recess) and consult his 
supporters about taking his seat.  Following this he plans to 
meet with the Patriarch and seek support for entering 
Parliament and working on laws he proposed during the 
campaign, one of which would give state religion status to 
the Georgian Orthodox Church.  In that way, Targamadze would 
then have plenty of political support -- and cover -- for 
entering Parliament in September.  Shashkin reported that 
TBILISI 00000963  002 OF 003 
Targamadze appears to be the only leader among all the 
opposition currently communicating with the government, 
although how and to what extent is unclear. 
4. (C) Shashkin said Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, a member of 
the Joint Opposition and leader of the Freedom Party, will 
leave the Joint Opposition and enter Parliament.  This 
contradicts published statements by Gamsakhurdia that he will 
not do so.  Shashkin claimed that Targamadze consulted with 
Gamsakhurdia and proposed he take the expected Vice-Speaker 
position, which would leave Targamadze positioned to be 
Minority Leader.  (Comment: Post has encouraged the &#x0
00A;government to pursue reforms that would give the 
parliamentary minority real influence on committees, the 
budget, and Parliamentary delegations.  Targamadze seems to 
be acutely aware of the possibilities of engagement, should 
the government uphold its end of any deal.  End comment.) 
The Boycott and Protests 
5. (C) Despite their backroom search for a way out of the 
current predicament, David Gamkrelidze and Levan 
Gachechiladze of the Joint Opposition have persisted in their 
public calls for a boycott of the new Parliament and 
picketing of the Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue on 
June 10, blocking MPs from entering and taking their seats. 
Shashkin said that the government is ready for the planned 
protests on June 10 and willing to use force if necessary, 
confirming clear public statements by President Saakashvili, 
National Security Council chief Alexandre Lomaia and Minister 
of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili.  Shashkin said the 
government will post special riot forces inside the 
Parliament, and block the two side streets on either side of 
the building with additional forces.  Both of these streets 
run uphill, which will give the police the higher ground and 
make it more difficult for the protesters to push up the 
streets into the building.  Protesters will be allowed to 
congregate in front of the building.  The government 
reportedly has no plans to confront the protesters, and will 
only push back if attacked.  Violent demonstrators will be 
arrested.  Shashkin opined that the potential for conflict is 
real, but the government is going to lengths to avoid it. 
Shaskin believes Gamkrelidze and Gachechiladze are the only 
two opposition figures who are pushing hard for 
confrontation.  He thinks Gamkrelidze may be suffering from 
Republicans Sit This One Out 
6. (C) On June 3, the Chairman of the Republican Party David 
Usupashvili held a press conference and published an article 
in local daily, Rezonansi.  He said that picketing Parliament 
would be useless and alleged it would only play into the 
government's hands, giving it a legal pretext to arrest the 
opposition and then conduct "wide-scale repression" of the 
opposition's supporters while labeling them "rebels." 
Consequently, Usupashvili said the Republicans will not take 
part in any protests on June 10.  Rather, he charged that the 
opposition "should acknowledge its temporary defeat and 
prepare for the next stage in the struggle against the 
authorities' violence and fraud."  Usupashvili claimed that 
his party has a concrete action plan and will release details 
soon.  (Note: Shashkin said the Republicans' ran a poor 
campaign.  Despite being smart, respectable, and patriotic, 
Shashkin said, the Republicans relied only on IRI's 
favorability ratings of their individual leaders, rather than 
the more informative ballot tests.  Shashkin said people like 
the Republicans, but don't want to buy their particular brand 
of politics, cutting into their vote total.  End note.) 
Burjanadze's Return to Politics? 
7. (C) Shashkin also related a recent conversation with 
outgoing Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze.  He said 
Burjanadze told him she will announce a new political 
foundation on June 9, called The Georgian Fund for Democracy. 
 She hope to make the foundation a serious think tank, which 
will serve as a springboard for her to create a political 
party.  Initial plans call for the foundation to focus on 
rule of law, ongoing reforms, and possibly social issues 
(i.e. healthcare).  Burjanadze is reportedly trying to raise 
funds in the U.S. and Europe, and appeared interested in USG 
assistance.  She claimed her plans for the future received 
much attention in Washington, and takes this to mean she 
should stay in politics and can expect support.  Shashkin 
said one challenge Burjanadze faces is the perception she is 
not close enough to the Georgian people.  Consequently, IRI 
TBILISI 00000963  003 OF 003 
will conduct focus groups for Burjanadze on June 5 and 6, in 
order to hone her message for the announcement. 
8. (C) Shashkin believes Burjanadze has Presidential 
aspirations for the 2013 election.  Therefore, she will not 
accept a position in government now, as anything would be of 
less stature than Speaker of Parliament (the second-highest 
position in government).  As the second most popular 
politician in the country now, Shashkin said she must be 
careful to not squander this support.  Burjanadze discussed 
with Shashkin her recent purchase (per a Presidential decree 
and for the symbolic price of One Georgian Lari, or $0.68 
USD) of the government-owned house where she lived as Speaker 
and Acting President.  The purchase is legal, and Burjanadze 
pointed to similar precedents in Poland and Lithuania, as 
well as in Georgia with former President Shevardnadze (who 
has never left the house he lived in as President). 
Consequently, Burjanadze intends to keep the house and 
dismiss criticism, claiming ongoing security concerns require 
her to stay put.  Shashkin told Burjanadze the purchase will 
still look bad and be held against her.  He suggested she 
could pay more for the property, but apparently Burjanadze 
rejected the idea.  The topic will be raised at the focus 
groups, as Shashkin believes that Burjanadze ought to change 
her mind. 
9. (C) Shashkin said that Burjanadze has no supporters in 
Parliament right now.  However, he believes that within 1-2 
years, there will be at least 10 by-elections (due to MPs 
leaving Parliament for cabinet posts or other reasons) that 
will free enough seats for Burjanadze to create a faction. 
The most important question is how the Government and UNM 
hard-liners will respond to Burjanadze,s presidential 
ambitions, Shashkin said.  Burjanadze told him Saakashvili 
supports her goals for her foundation.  However, he said 
Saakashvili must also be aware of Burjanadze's desire to be 
President.  Shashkin noted that Irakli Okruashvili (exiled 
former Minister of Defense) never ran into problems with the 
administration over creating his own political party until 
his popularity was seen to have reached a threatening level. 
Should the government attack Burjanadze, Shashkin fears the 
fallout could be just as damaging to the country as that 
which followed Okruashvili's confrontation with the 
government in September 2007. 


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