08TBILISI2086, GEORGIA: OPPOSITION PROTEST FIZZLES OUT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2086 2008-11-07 15:25 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5897
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2086/01 3121525
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 071525Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0376
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002086 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: OPPOSITION PROTEST FIZZLES OUT 
 
REF: TBILISI 2075 
 
Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES a.i. KENT LOGSDON  REASONS:  1.4 (B) A 
ND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Summary:  The November 7 opposition demonstration to 
commemorate last year's rally that turned violent drew a very 
modest turnout and was not attended by many leading 
opposition leaders.  Protests were peaceful and police 
presence was limited with various speakers standing in front 
of the parliament addressing a crowd estimated at 4,000 to 
6,000 attendees.  A sizable portion of the crowd made an 
orderly trek to the Presidential Palace to hear Kakha Kukava 
(Conservative Party) "deliver" opposition demands via 
megaphone.  Embassy observers put most of the demonstrators 
in the category of 50 years old or older.  Major opposition 
figures such as former Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze, 
Davit Usupashvili (Republicans), and David Gamkrelidze (New 
Rights) shied away from the protest and decided not to 
attend.  The opposition Christian Democratic party staged an 
alternative rally at Didube church to pray for the health of 
the Patriarch who underwent surgery in Berlin.  Opposition 
MPs Gia Tortladze and Gia Tsagareshvili who recently formed a 
new political party (Democratic Party of Georgia) headed to 
Trinity Cathedral to pray for the unification of the country. 
 As of 4:00 pm local time, the rally started to break up with 
observers noting more people leaving than joining the protest 
and demonstration was over by 6:00pm local time. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  This demonstration, held on a damp and 
rainy day in Tbilisi, can only be considered a failure for 
the no-so-united United Opposition.  There was no interest 
from the public for its increasingly radical demands.  The 
paltry turnout, coupled with the absence of Burjanadze, 
Usupashvili, Gamkrelidze, Christian Democrats and the 
recently formed National Democratic Party of Georgia, shows 
United Opposition solidarity is cracking with moderate 
leaders being unwilling to be identified with the more 
radical opposition members.  Nevertheless, a number of 
lower-ranking opposition officials tied to Burjanadze, 
Usupashvili, and Gamkrelidze were seen minging in the crowd, 
indicating these more moderate leaders are still not quite 
ready to distance themselves completely from the United 
Opposition.  There was no sign of former Defense Minister 
Okruashvili, now living in France, who some thought might 
return to Tbilisi to lead the rally.  Considering the massive 
turnout in support of the Government on August 15 after the 
conflict ended, the optics of the two rallies cannot be more 
stark.  Stated plans to stage more protests over the next few 
months may be counterproductive to opposition aims for 
gaining support for their political agenda, unless public 
dissatisfaction with the Government begins to grow.  End 
Comment. 
 
Rally Calm, Leaders Praise and Criticize U.S. Role 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
3.  (C)  Embassy observers estimated the rally to be made up 
of 4,000 to 6,000 protesters.  Various opposition members 
spoke to a largely subdued crowd.  The police presence was 
minimal as both sides made good on promises to avoid 
violence.  Former Minister for Conflict Resolution, Goga 
Khaindrava addressed the crowd and lambasted EUR A/S Fried, 
DAS Bryza, and Ambassador Tefft for being blindly supportive 
of President Saakashvili.  He listed a number of grievances 
which focused mainly on American support of Saakashvili and 
American mischaracterization of the opposition and its goals. 
 Khaindrava went on to opine that American support of 
Saakashvili was dwindling, citing A/S Fried's recent meeting 
QSaakashvili was dwindling, citing A/S Fried's recent meeting 
with Georgian opposition leaders in Tbilisi as evidence.  The 
crowd was largely unmoved with this line of argument, showing 
little or no reaction.  Major opposition figures such as 
former Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze, Davit 
Usupashvili (Republicans), and David Gamkrelidze (New 
Rights), were absent from the rally. 
 
4.  (C)  After the speeches, a sizable portion of the crowd 
made their way to the Presidential Palace to deliver their 
demands to President Saakashvili.  The march was orderly and 
also completely without incident.  After Khakha Kukava 
"delivered" the demands via loudspeaker, the crowd disbanded. 
 Kukava made special note during his speech in front of the 
Presidential Palace to thank the United States and the EU for 
standing by Georgia in a time of crisis.  Parliamentary 
Chairman David Bakradze addressed the media while the march 
was ongoing saying that last year's events were a "bitter 
lesson," including for the authorities.  He further stated 
that a permanent dialogue is necessary no matter how serious 
the political differences.  Bakradze ended by saying that he 
was "...glad to say that today, on November 7, 2008, Georgia 
is more developed in terms of democracy, reforms, and unity 
than it was a year ago." 
 
 
TBILISI 00002086  002 OF 002 
 
 
Opposition Plans Clear for the Moment but Dubious 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
5.  (C)  Before the protest, the United O
pposition issued a 
five month action plan which again laid out opposition 
demands (ref A).  Additionally, the action plan envisions a 
24 hour picket of Imedi TV if the station is not returned to 
its "rightful" owner.  In December, a new united political 
organization will be set up.  This new union will purportedly 
lead the next stage of protest rallies.  This includes a 
rally scheduled for January 25, to demand the annulment of 
the January 2008 Presidential and May 2008 Parliamentary 
elections and other rallies as yet to be determined.  The 
action plan also details the United Opposition's intention to 
launch intensive meetings with people in the provinces to 
drum up support, after which it will launch an around the 
clock, permanent protest rally to begin on April 9, 2009 and 
continue until President Saakashvili and his government 
resigns.  Judging by today's turnout, it will be hard to 
attract Georgians back to the streets unless public 
dissatisfaction with President Saakashvili and his government 
grows. 
LOGSDON

Wikileaks

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