08TBILISI969, PARLIAMENT MEETS, OPPOSITION UNITY DISSOLVES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI969 2008-06-10 14:14 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5537
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0969/01 1621414
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101414Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9611
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000969 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT MEETS, OPPOSITION UNITY DISSOLVES 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: In a surprise move, President Saakashvili 
called the new Parliament into its first session on the 
morning of Saturday, June 7.  Caught off-guard, the Joint 
Opposition was unable to force the mass protests they had 
planned for June 8, in anticipation of Parliament meeting on 
June 9.  As expected, Davit Bakradze was elected Speaker, and 
former Minister of Agriculture Petre Tsiskarishvili was 
elected leader of the Parliamentary Majority.  The Joint 
Opposition and Labor parties boycotted the session as 
promised.  However, two MPs elected on Republican 
majoritarian tickets and two Labor MPs from the party list 
attended.  Bakradze appealed to the opposition with offers of 
engagement during his speech.  Meanwhile, opposition New 
Rightist Chairman (and Joint Opposition leader) David 
Gamkrelidze and a few hundred supporters rallied outside. 
Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II, after 
attending the opening session, condemned divisiveness in 
Georgian politics to the few remaining protesters outside 
Parliament, saying "The Georgian people represent one, united 
nation.  The devil divides and God unites... I hope we will 
achieve unity."  The already-fragile Joint Opposition cracked 
more on June 9, as leaders Gia Tortladze and Gia 
Tsagareishvili quit the coalition.  The two have said they 
will join the Parliament if certain concessions are made to 
the opposition.  It is unlikely the Joint Opposition's is 
finished just yet, but it appears to be on its last legs. 
End summary. 
 
Opening Session 
--------------- 
 
2. (U) Late on June 6, President Saakashvili called for 
Parliament to meet in its opening session on the morning of 
Saturday, June 7.  The first session was heavily anticipated 
as going to occur on either June 9 or 10 - the last day it 
could be held by Georgian law.  Saakashvili opened the 
session with a 7-minute speech, calling for the unity of 
Georgia.  The ruling United National Movement (UNM) took 119 
of 150 seats, comprising a constitutional majority.  As 
expected, former Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze was elected 
Chairman of the Parliament (Speaker), the highest position in 
the government after the President.  Former Minister of 
Agriculture Petre Tsiskarishvili was elected Majority Leader. 
 The Joint Opposition and Labor parties boycotted the session 
as promised.  Two MPs elected on Republican majoritarian 
tickets and two Labor MPs elected from the party list 
attended the session, but abstained from the voting. 
 
3. (U) Bakradze again urged the opposition to ignore the 
boycott and to enter Parliament.  He offered compromise 
proposals that would give opposition MPs increased clout 
within the legislative body.  Some of the inducements 
included committee chairmanships, deputy chairmanships, a 
vice speaker position, and changing the law to allow 6 MPs 
(instead of 10) to form a faction.  This last would allow 
both the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) and Labor to 
form their own factions.  (Factions have the ability to 
influence Parliament's schedule, and they are guaranteed 
committee seats and membership on delegations and 
investigatory commissions.) 
 
Protests 
-------- 
 
4. (U) The early call for the opening session of Parliament 
took the opposition by surprise.  Forced to call a 
spontaneous protest a day and a half early, only a few 
hundred people turned out in front of Parliament late on June 
6.  A few dozen people stayed through the night, and less 
than a thousand showed in the morning.  The opposition never 
mustered enough bodies to close Rustaveli Avenue, as they 
have repeatedly done in the past.  United Opposition leaders, 
including David Gamkrelidze and Levan Gachechiladze, gave 
dramatic speeches reiterating their commitment to boycott 
Parliament and call for new elections, while disparaging 
those opposition parties who have determined to enter 
Parliament (namely, Giorgi Targamadze's CDM).  Gamkrelidze, 
Gachechiladze, and a few others made a show of cutting up 
their MP mandates with scissors.  The rally dispersed 
approximately one hour after Parliament convened. 
 
 
Patriarch's Visit 
----------------- 
 
5. (U) Ilia II, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church 
attended the opening session of Parliament.  Following this, 
in a significant gesture of outreach, he briefly addressed 
the remaining protesters outside and encouraged them to 
engage the government productively rather than through 
 
TBILISI 00000969  002 OF 002 
 
 
continued demonstrations.  He said, "The Georgian people 
represent one, united nation.  The devil divides and God 
unites... I hope we will achieve unity." 
 
Cracks in the Opposition 
------------------------ 
 
6. (SBU) Cracks have begun to appear within the Joint 
Opposition since the end of the Parliamentary elections on 
May 21.  On
Our Own, a small opposition party already left 
the Joint Opposition in May, and the CDM ran independently of 
the coalition ticket.  Elected CDM officials have issued a 
statement declaring their intent to enter Parliament, 
although they were absent from its opening session. 
Reportedly, they are preparing a list of demands for entering 
the Parliament.  Two individual members of the Joint 
Opposition coalition, Gia Tortladze and Gia Tsagareishvili, 
quit the coalition (by which they were elected) on June 9, 
citing the dominant role of the New Rights Party within the 
bloc.  They also intend to enter Parliament, pending certain 
concessions by the majority (including no changes to the 
constitution without consent of the opposition and direct 
election of mayors and governors, a key demand by the CDM as 
well).  Another leader, Jondi Bagaturia of the Georgian 
Troupe party remains undecided.  Irakli Iashvili, a New 
Rightist MP in the previous Parliament and MP-elect, 
announced on June 9 that he was leaving the party and 
politics for good. 
 
What Next for the Opposition? 
----------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) The permanent boycott of Parliament appears to be 
the breaking point that divided the opposition MPs over 
whether or not to accept their mandates.  Most of the Labor 
Party, as well as the leadership of the eight-party Joint 
Opposition, remain firm in boycotting Parliament.  So far, it 
appears that at least 10 of 31 opposition MPs will enter 
Parliament, although the terms which would allow the CDM to 
enter are as yet unclear.  What is clear, is that the 
opposition has failed in its call for a complete boycott of 
Parliament, and the Joint Opposition's unity is failing fast. 
 As Gamkrelidze still leads the New Rightists and has the 
largest say in the bloc, it is too early to rule out his 
importance on future actions.  Likewise, Labor has enough 
supporters that they could still stir the pot.  However, the 
ruling party appears to have outsmarted the opposition again 
while the protests appear to have failed to resonate with the 
people.  Consequently, the divisions among the opposition 
will not be repaired with further conflict, barring any 
significant missteps by the UNM, such as those of November 
2007. 
TEFFT

Wikileaks

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