08TBILISI1602, GEORGIA: SAAKASHVILI’S STATE OF THE COUNTRY ADDRESS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI1602 2008-09-17 14:52 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4836
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1602/01 2611452
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171452Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0104
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0112

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001602 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/17/2018 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL RU GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SAAKASHVILI'S STATE OF THE COUNTRY ADDRESS 
 
REF: TBILISI 1494 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
 
 1. (C)  Summary and Comment.  President Saakashvili's 
September 16 state of the nation included concessions to the 
opposition, proposals to check executive power, and measures 
to increase judicial freedom and open media.  Parliamentary 
opposition members said that most of the proposals were not 
new to them, having been discussed earlier in the summer; 
however, many withheld judgment until they could see the 
details of the reforms.  Public reaction to Saakashvili's 
speech was positive and optimistic and many thought that it 
set the appropriate tone for unity during difficult times. 
The timing of the speech directly followed the departure of 
NATO Ambassadors from their two day visit to Tbilisi and 
Saakashvili previewed its main message of a new wave of 
democratic and judicial reforms at a meeting with NATO SYG de 
Hoop Scheffer and NATO Permreps the day before.  The speech 
is one way that Saakashvili is trying to  reassure NATO and 
the West that he understands that continued assistance and 
support also depends on further democratic reforms. 
Saakashvili is also eager to showcase democratic and judicial 
progress in order to increase Georgia's chance for a NATO MAP 
and eventual membership.  End Summary and Comment. 
 
Misha Promises Reform 
--------------------- 
 
2.  (C) On September 16, President Saakashvili delivered his 
annual state of the nation address to Parliament in which he 
announced the launch of a new wave of democratic reforms. 
The speech directly followed the September 15-16 meetings of 
the North Atlantic Council in Tbilisi.  In fact, the 
President announced the speech during his discussion with the 
visiting North Atlantic Council permreps.  The new reforms 
will be aimed at strengthening Parliament, establishing free 
and impartial media, promoting free and unbiased courts, 
limiting executive powers, and protecting private property. 
His remarks focused on Georgian unity, thanking NATO, the EU, 
France, the countries of Eastern Europe, Germany, and 
particularly the United States for standing by Georgia in its 
time of need, and outlining needed reforms. 
 
3.  (C)  Among Saakashvili's suggestions were concessions 
which would strengthen the power of the opposition, limit 
Presidential powers, hold a public accounting of his 
decisions during the events of August, and create greater 
judicial reform.  He said it was important to include 
opposition members in an Anti-Crisis Council, and also 
proposed increasing funding for political parties (including 
restoring funding for those parties not currently in the 
Parliament), and televising debates to gauge public opinion. 
In an attempt to curb executive powers, a 
presidentially-proposed new constitutional amendment would 
allow the Parliament to pass a confidence vote in the new 
cabinet and limit the President's power to dissolve 
Parliament.  Saakashvili acknowledged that questions 
regarding the events of August need to be addressed, and in 
this vein, supports parliamentary debates to establish ground 
truth and explain his actions.  Finally, he plans to ensure 
more judicial transparency, by making judges' tenure a 
life-time appointment and passing the Criminal Procedure Code 
which would ensure a trial by jury. 
 
Opposition Members' Impressions 
------------------------------- 
 
4.  (U)  United National Movement members said that they 
found Saakashvili's remarks positive with concrete 
suggestions.  Opposition member and Vice-Speaker of the 
Parliament Levan Vepkhvadze said that two thirds of the 
initiatives had been agreed upon already so there were no 
surprises.  Giorgi Tsagareishvili cited the need for amending 
the law on broadcasting which will legalize free debates on 
the Georgian Public Broadcasting Channel (GPB), while Giorgi 
Targamadze pointed out the minuses of the speech:  neither 
mention of electoral code reform nor strengthening local 
government.  He added, however, that the Christian Democrats 
would support these reforms, as long as they are fully 
implemented.  Targamadze stressed the importance of 
independent courts.  Levan Gachechalidze from the United 
Opposition and Davit Usupashvili from the Republican Party 
both said President Saakashvili's speech was cosmetic and 
they are withholding judgment until they see if the reforms 
are implemented.  Both went on to say that these changes have 
been promised in the past, but were never brought to 
fruition.  The Christian Democrats and the Republican party 
stressed the need for strengthening the independence and 
freedom of the press.  Nino Burdjanadze said she felt the 
 
TBILISI 00001602  002 OF 002 
 
 
speech was quite good and addressed the issues most needing 
reform.  She added, however, that the reforms must be 
implemented properly. 
TEFFT

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