09TBILISI222, GEORGIA: NON-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION MUST CHOOSE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI222 2009-02-05 14:18 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3836
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0222/01 0361418
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051418Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0896
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000222 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: NON-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION MUST CHOOSE 
ON ELECTION CODE REFORM 
 
REF: A. 08 TBILISI 2417 
     B. 09 TBILISI 168 
 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires A.I. Kent D. Logsdon for reasons 1.4 ( 
b) and (d). 
 
1. (C) Summary: The Georgian Parliament is renewing its 
efforts to create a working group to reform Georgia's 
Election Code (ref A) in 2009.  Speaker Bakradze has invited 
significant political parties (inside and outside of 
Parliament), five local NGOs, the Central Election Commission 
(CEC), and the international diplomatic community to join the 
workinggroup.  The international community's efforts thus 
far have been coordinated by the OSCE and National Democratic 
Institute (NDI).  NDI has gotten most, but not yet all, 
parties to agree to a Code of Conduct for the working group 
process.  International organizations will encourage invited 
parties to sign the Code of Conduct and participate in the 
Government-organized working group.  Bakradze is meeting with 
the international community on February 6 to hear suggestions 
and discuss his next steps and CEC Chairman Levan 
Tarkhnishvili has expressed his hopes that a new code can be 
drafted this year while Georgia is not facing imminent 
elections.  Key questions which remain unanswered include who 
will chair the working group and where it will meet, although 
thus far Speaker Bakradze appears to be prepared to lead the 
effort for the Government.  Further complicating efforts, are 
the non-parliamentary opposition's continuing calls for the 
President's resignation and new elections, the latest of 
which came on January 29 (ref B).  Parliament's leadership 
seems dedicated to as inclusive a process as possible, but 
has stated its intention to create the new code even if the 
non-parliamentary opposition refuses to participate.  End 
summary. 
 
2. (C) Comment: Post continues to believe that unscheduled 
elections this year are unlikely, and that the 
non-parliamentary opposition's demands for such do not have 
popular support.  The CEC is correct that a current 
opportunity of (relative) political calm exists to form a 
new, improved election code before the 2010 elections.  There 
is little reason to delay the group's work, once parties sign 
the Code of Conduct.  It is likely some or most of the 
non-parliamentary opposition will refuse to participate. 
Should this happen, it need not be a deal-breaker.  If the 
government continues to encourage real participation by 
parliamentary opposition, NGOs, and international 
partners/experts, this could provide significant oversight 
and transparency to the process.  If the result of the 
working group is indeed an election code in line with 
international standards -- the intended outcome would be for 
the Council of Europe's Venice Commission to review any new 
draft code -- then the process will have achieved its goal. 
We will continue to encourage the GOG to work with all 
participants to adopt such a code, but also believe that the 
non-parliamentary opposition should not be allowed to hijack 
the process.  End comment. 
 
WORKING GROUP INVITEES 
 
3. (SBU) Parliament, led by Speaker David Bakradze, is 
continuing with its plans to create a working group to reform 
Georgia's Election Code (ref A) in 2009.  Bakradze has 
invited all parties within Parliament, those "qualified 
parties" outside of Parliament that receive state funding as 
well as former Speaker Nino Burjanadze's party, to 
participate in the group.  In addition, Bakradze invited five 
local NGOs to participate, including: Georgian Young Lawyers 
Association (GYLA), Transparency International (TI) of 
Georgia, International Society for Free Elections and 
QGeorgia, International Society for Free Elections and 
Democracy, New Generation New Initiative, and Public Movement 
Multi-National Georgia.  The Central Election Commission 
(CEC) will also be a member of the working group.  Finally, 
Bakradze invited representatives of the international 
diplomatic community to join the working group, likely in the 
capacity of observers.  The international community's efforts 
thus far have been coordinated by the OSCE and National 
Democratic Institute (NDI).  The OSCE, EU, UNDP, NDI, IFES, 
and the U.S. Embassy have participated in preliminary 
meetings to assess whether the political will currently 
exists for such a process to progress.  NDI confirms most, 
but not yet all, parties have agreed to sign a Code of 
Conduct and join the working group.  Bakradze is meeting with 
the international community on February 6 to hear suggestions 
and detail next steps.  (Embassy Note.  Bakradze's personal 
involvement in this process was delayed for several weeks 
after he became seriously ill when he had an allergic 
reaction to anesthesia during a recent surgical procedure to 
remove a kidney stone.  He has recovered fully.  End note.) 
 
 
TBILISI 00000222  002 OF 003 
 
 
CEC ANXIOUS TO BEGIN 
 
4. (C) CEC Chair Tarkhnishvili told embassy officers that a 
golden opportunity for real reform of the election code 
exists in 2009.
 There are no national elections scheduled 
until local elections take place in 2010.  Notwithstanding 
non-parliamentary calls for protests and the President's 
resignation, a period of relative political calm should allow 
such a working group to meet and deliberate without the 
pressure of political grandstanding.  By-elections to fill 
several vacant seats in Parliament in the fall can provide a 
better-managed trial run for the new election code, allowing 
Parliament and the CEC to correct shortcomings well in 
advance of the 2010 elections.  Tarkhnishvili acknowledged 
that he wants to address the issues raise in OSCE ODIHR 
reports which have criticized Georgia for "amending the 
election code" shortly before each election. 
 
5. (C) Tarkhnishvili said that he currently envisions two 
groups; the first should be a political body -- to include 
all the parties -- that will decide the political issues of 
the code (how many MPs, how many elected by party list, how 
to handle the single-mandate majoritarian seats, etc.)  He 
envisioned the second group as a technical group, consisting 
of Parliament's legal staff, CEC lawyers, and an 
international expert to draft the code in accordance with the 
political group's will.  Tarkhnishvili told Poloff that he 
would be open to NGOs participating in, or observing, the 
technical group.  He also asked USAID if they could provide 
financial assistance for an international expert(s) to ensure 
that the new electon code meets international standards. 
 
GYLA AND TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL 
 
6. (C) GYLA and TI were key watchdogs during recent 
elections, and remain committed to improving Georgia's future 
elections.  GYLA's coordinator for elections projects, Nino 
Lomjaria, confirmed that Bakradze had invited her 
organization to participate in the working group.  She said 
that they were currently waiting for additional information 
from Parliament on next steps, which she expects in the near 
future.  Lomjaria agreed a new election code that meets 
international standards is necessary, and GYLA is looking 
forward to joining the group.  Similarly, TI is also onboard 
with the project.  TI Executive Director Tamuna Karosanidze 
thought that NGO participation could serve an important 
oversight role for the public interest.  She suggested -- 
similar to Tarkhnishvili's proposal -- that a technical group 
including majority and minority faction lawyers from 
Parliament, as well as NGOs, work together on drafting the 
code to enforce the political decisions from the main body. 
 
STICKING POINTS 
 
7. (C) NDI confirms most, but not yet all, parties have 
agreed to sign a Code of Conduct and then join the working 
group.  All parliamentary parties have agreed, with the 
possible exception of Jondi Baghaturia's tiny Georgian 
Troupe.  Among non-parliamentary parties, Burjanadze's 
Democratic Movement-United Georgia, the Labor Party, and the 
Industrialists all agreed to sign the Code of Conduct. 
Apparently, the remaining non-parliamentary opposition 
parties have agreed to the Code of Conduct, but desire 
additional concessions before joining the working group.  Who 
will chair the working group and where it will meet remain 
key sticking points for these parties. 
 
NON-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION STALLS 
 
8. (C) Further complicating efforts are the non-parliamentary 
opposition's continuing calls for President Saakashvili's 
Qopposition's continuing calls for President Saakashvili's 
resignation and early elections, most recently on January 29 
(ref B).  This call was joined by most major 
non-parliamentary opposition parties.  It is hard to see how 
these parties can reconcile these demands with their 
participation in the working group, whose Code of Conduct 
ensures that all parties will negotiate and participate in 
good faith.  Furthermore, the Code of Conduct states that 
parties will refrain from threatening behavior during the 
process.  NDI's Mary O'Hagan opined that such reconciliation 
is not the international community's responsibility, nor 
should it be.  She said "there is only so much we can do to 
protect the non-parliamentary opposition from themselves." 
Tarkhnishvili acknowledged that some of the parties will 
undoubtedly violate terms of the Code of Conduct.  He said 
that while this is to be expected, once formed, the working 
group can address any violations. 
 
PARLIAMENT MOVING AHEAD 
 
 
 
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* Missing Section 003 * 
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