08TBILISI2400, GEORGIA: NOT ALL OPPONENTS SUPPORT EARLY ELECTIONS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2400 2008-12-15 14:43 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO6521
OO RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2400/01 3501443
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151443Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0580
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002400 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: NOT ALL OPPONENTS SUPPORT EARLY ELECTIONS 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1. (C)  Comment: Although parliamentary and presidential 
elections are not scheduled to take place until 2012 and 2013 
respetively, calls for early elections  have become de 
rigueur in Georgia for some opposition leaders.  Thus far, 
President Saakashvili does not appear inclined to call either 
parliamentary or presidential elections in the near term. 
According to the Constitution, the President has the 
authority to call for new elections at any time, but it 
appears at this point, elections bring him no political 
advantage.  They are not widely desired by the public at 
large, and elections are expensive - something Saakashvili is 
quick to note.  Christian Democratic (CDM) leader, Gigi 
Targamadze told us he opposes early elections, as his party 
has a four-year strategy for winning the highest office. 
Targamadze is focusing on building a party throughout the 
country and thinking politically in terms of years rather 
than days, a strategy which separates him from virtually all 
of the non-Parliamentary opposition.  End Comment. 
 
THE MECHANISM EXISTS, BUT DOES THE MOTIVATION? 
 
2.  (C)  To clarify Georgia's process, President Saakashvili 
could initiate early presidential or parliamentary elections 
by one of potentially four ways.  The first would be to 
resign his presidency, which would trigger a new election 
after at least a 60 day interim period.  (Embassy Note: 
Saakashvili used this mechanism to trigger last January's 
Presidential Election.  If Saakashvili resigned again, the 
Georgian Constitution could bar him from competing in the 
next Presidential Election by virtue of having won two 
concurrent elections.  End Note.)  The second would be to 
dissolve Parliament and call for new elections after three 
successive votes fail for Prime Minister, the Government, or 
the budget.  In principle, this power allows the President to 
dissolve a recalcitrant Parliament.  However, Saakashvili 
could easily meet this legalistic hurdle if he wanted new 
elections as the overwhelming majority of Parliamentarians 
are members of the President's party (the National Movement 
-- UNM) and a vote of "no confidence" could easily be 
arranged.  Again, the election would be subject to a minimum 
60 day waiting period.  Another possibility would be for 
Parliament to vote to change the constitution and allow for 
new elections which was the basis for last May's 
Parliamentary elections.  (Embassy Comment:  Because UNM 
still holds a constitutional majority in Parliament, this 
would probably be the most straightforward way to hold new 
pre-term elections.  End Comment.)  Lastly, in theory, 
President Saakashvili could declare a crisis situation then 
use his emergency powers to "resolve the crisis" by holding 
new elections.  In this case, the President's legal authority 
may be dubious or unclear, but opposition leaders would be 
highly unlikely to forgo new elections by challenging the 
decision on legalistic grounds. 
 
3.  (SBU)  Saakashvili recently addressed the question (and 
indirectly Nino Burjanadze's recent comments that Georgia 
under Saakashvili is viewed as a banana republic) by saying 
frequent elections would not be a sign of "statehood".  He 
further criticized the opposition saying that "(i)f we want 
to make fun of our country and hold two or three elections 
per year anytime someone is unhappy with the election 
results, then it would mean we are no longer a state." 
According to the CEC chairman, the government spent 
approximately $45 million for elections in 2008, and 
QSaakashvili said those calling for early elections in the 
midst of the current financial crisis are doing so "not for 
our people; not for the economy; not for development and not 
for rescuing Georgia; but for politicians and their 
campaigns". 
 
4.  (C)  In the Embassy's view, Saakashvili has practically 
nothing to gain by calling for new elections.  Calls for new 
elections enjoy little public support, and the President's 
argument that elections are expensive has put opposition 
candidates on the defensive.  Saakashvili's other argument is 
also sound; essentially stating that the opposition wants him 
to fix their failures - either their failure to win enough 
votes to enter Parliament last May or their failure to accept 
their seats.  Conversely, acquiescing to demands for new 
elections would be seen as legitimizing his critics and their 
agenda.  Moreover, the non-Parliamentary opposition has not 
yet decided what kind of elections to demand (Parliamentary 
or Presidential) or how to initiate these elections.  Absent 
a major public crisis in confidence, Saakashvili is almost 
certain to keep elections on their normal timelines. 
Saakashvili seems content to have the opposition paint 
themselves into a corner by single-mindedly pursuing new 
elections. 
 
DOES ANYBODY HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN? 
 
 
TBILISI 00002400  002 OF 002 
 
 
5.  (C)  CDM leader and member of Parliament Gigi Targamadze 
told us on December 13 that he largely agrees with 
Saakashvili's view on elections ad does not support an early 
contest.
Targamadze has seen his public profile rise since 
accepting his Parliamentary mandate and he leads a credible, 
albeit small, opposition group within the Parliament. 
Targamadze is committed to building a long-term strategy to 
bring the CDM to power in four years.  Targamadze is slowly 
establishing himself and his party as a "third" way, neither 
in government nor as a member of the United Opposition. 
Rather than a singular focus on new elections, hoping he 
catches an anti-Saakashvili wave to bring him to power, he is 
focused on party building and governance.  Targamadze 
believes that expanding into the regions and creating a 
national organization with a "bench" of local politicians is 
how the Christian Democrats can make, and have made, 
substantial gains.  Targamadze understands that building a 
party and engaging in policy debates on issues like national 
defense (septel) and the budget is a more effective way to 
work in opposition.  Ironically, because they have followed a 
less confrontational approach, if the more radical opposition 
gets their new elections, Targamadze and the Christian 
Democrats could stand to gain at their expense. 
TEFFT

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