09TBILISI276, GEORGIA: SPEAKER BRIEFS DIPLOMATIC CORPS ON POLITICAL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI276 2009-02-10 12:33 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7262
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0276/01 0411233
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101233Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0920
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000276 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SPEAKER BRIEFS DIPLOMATIC CORPS ON POLITICAL 
SITUATION, DEMOCRATIC REFORMS 
 
REF: 09 TBILISI 222 
 
1. (SBU) Summary and comment:  On February 6, 2009 Speaker of 
Parliament David Bakradze called in the diplomatic corps and 
representatives of implementing organizations such as NDI and IRI to 
discuss recent political developments and Parliament's progress and 
plans on democratic reforms.  Bakradze regretted the polarization of 
the current political situation, and assessed that the Georgian 
people are concerned primarily about two issues: security and the 
economy.  He said support for the ruling United National Movement 
(UNM) has softened somewhat, but that the government maintains the 
strong confidence of the majority of voters.  Bakradze said the 
radical (non-parliamentary) opposition has not seen an increase in 
support, but the number of Georgian voters who are undecided has 
increased.  Bakradze said that the government is committed to 
enacting democratic reforms in Georgia, and he detailed current 
steps.  The Embassy is watching the political situation and 
Parliament's reforms closely.   End Summary and comment. 
 
SETTING THE (POLITICAL) SCENE 
 
2. (SBU) Bakradze said the Government is worried about increasing 
signs of polarization in Georgian politics.  He said that the crisis 
of November 2007 taught the government that such polarization is 
dangerous to the country.  Therefore, they must create a political 
system where all can be heard. 
 
NO ELECTIONS, NO RESIGNATION 
 
3. (SBU) The Speaker noted that the radical opposition is calling 
for new protests and a new government (some by April 9).  Bakradze 
does not believe this will not happen.  He explained that the 
radical opposition is unified on only one issue, Saakashvili's 
resignation.  Bakradze noted that public opinion polls show that the 
majority of voters support the UNM and President Saakashvili. 
However, according to Bakradze, the polls also reveal that support 
for both the UNM and the radical opposition has decreased, while 
numbers of those who support the parliamentary opposition or who are 
undecided have increased.  (Note: On February 8, parliamentary 
opposition MPs told us they see opportunity in the middle ground, as 
they watch their polling numbers rise.  They can provide voters a 
third option between the UNM and the street.  End note.) 
 
BUTTER AND GUNS, OLD FEARS NEW FACES 
 
4. (SBU) Bakradze said that those citizens who identify themselves 
as "undecideds" have two main concerns:  the economy, and security. 
He said the UNM is working to address these issues, and claimed that 
the radical opposition is not offering real solutions.  In 
Bakradze's view, the increase in numbers of undecided voters is 
attracting new (or not so new) faces to the political scene, 
including former high-ranking government officials (i.e. former UN 
Ambassador Alasania, former Speaker Burjanadze, and former PM 
Noghaideli).  Nonetheless, Bakradze predicted that the UNM would win 
over these undecided voters with concrete actions addressing 
security and economic concerns. 
 
DEMOCRACY PARAMOUNT 
 
5. (SBU) Bakradze said that the UNM is committed to further 
democratic reforms.  He insisted that despite questions, the 
governent is intent on making these reforms real.  He said that the 
country cannot develop with a system that encourages "kamikaze 
opposition," that entails cornering opposition parties who then feel 
forced to "blow themselves up." 
 
6. (SBU) Bakradze said the government is not afraid of these 
reforms, that "we have no choice, we have to do this."  He lamented 
that his previous contact with the non-parliamentary opposition had 
Qthat his previous contact with the non-parliamentary opposition had 
dropped off, and said he would like to resume dialogue.  He told the 
ambassadors, "I want you to understand our goals." 
 
COMPLETED REFORM, PARTY FINANCING 
 
7. Bakradze said Parliament had to act fast when it restored 
political party financing prior to December 31, in order to include 
it in the 2009 budget.  He noted the newly-approved party financing 
structure (septel) provides more money to more parties, and for more 
activities (including political research) than any previous party 
financing structure in Georgia.  He hoped that a law clarifying this 
party financing structure would be finished by summer 2009, with 
help from a German foundation. 
 
PENDING REFORM, CRIMINAL CODE 
 
8. (SBU) Bakradze said Parliament passed the new Criminal Procedure 
Code (CPC) in its first and second readings last year.  However, 
Parliament had waited for an international expert from Sussex 
 
TBILISI 00000276  002 OF 003 
 
 
University to review the CPC before passing it in its third and 
final reading.  Bakradze shared copies of the assessment with the 
attendees at the meeting and then read the expert's summary, which &#
x000A;stated the CPC "has much to commend it; it is fully compliant with 
COE and international norms."  Bakradze said they would debate the 
code in Parliament and he expects it to be passed before the end of 
February. 
 
PENDING REFORM, POLITICAL CHANNEL 
 
9. (SBU) Bakradze said that the Georgian Public Broadcasting (GPB) 
and Parliament continue to work on the political Channel-2 project 
which is planned to resemble C-SPAN.  .  The channel is will include 
coverage of Parliament, committees, political events and will have a 
small studio to provide access to all political parties (including 
non-parliamentary).  Bakradze said the GPB is working with BBC 
Parliament TV to develop the channel and format.  He welcomed any 
international assistance and specifically sought financial support. 
Bakradze also noted that the number of political talk shows is 
increasing on all channels. 
 
PENDING REFORM, ELECTION CODE 
 
 
10. (SBU) Bakradze noted that he had called for creation of a 
working group to reform the election code in December 2008 (ref A). 
He said that the National Democratic Institute is working to engage 
a broad range of political parties on a Code of Conduct.  He said 
that the process will continue with as many parties as possible, but 
he recognized the reality that some parties will likely choose not 
participate.  Ultimately, he said, Georgia needs - and the 
Parliament will create - a better election code in 2009 than existed 
in 2008. 
 
11. (SBU) Bakradze stressed the new code will be completed and 
vetted through international and Council of Europe experts (the 
Venice Commission) before local elections take place in Fall 2010. 
Bakradze said he does not know what the new election code will look 
like, but sees two main issues: first, the new code must be more 
democratic.  Second, the allocation of seats (single-mandate vs. 
party list) must be determined.  Bakradze said there will be 
disagreement and much debate over the two issues, but the final code 
will be more more representative of the views of wide range of 
parties and interests. 
 
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS 
 
12. (SBU) Bakradze said two proposed Constitutional amendments will 
be reviewed in accordance with law, and likely passed, by mid-March. 
 The first amendment would limit the President's right to dissolve 
Parliament.  The second amendment would clarify that Parliament must 
vote to approve the cabinet (this is ambiguous under current law, 
and could conflict if the opposition would have a majority in 
Parliament).  Despite claims by some opposition members, the 
amendments will limit the President's ability to change cabinet 
positions  and will not allow the President to dismiss Parliament at 
his will. 
 
AMBASSADORS ENCOURAGE MORE REFORM 
 
13. (SBU) The ambassadors thanked the Speaker for the comprehensive 
update.  Noting that President Saakashvili said on September 16, 
2008 that the only response for Georgia to Russia's aggression was 
"more democracy," they encouraged the Speaker and Parliament to make 
good on his pledge.  One ambassador said that while a new election 
code was important, it is of equal importance that the government 
ensures the code is followed, and anyone violating the code is held 
accountable.  This ambassador also remarked that while the structure 
of increased political programming is good, publicizing ownership of 
media companies in Georgia would be beneficial to media freedom. 
Qmedia companies in Georgia would be beneficial to media freedom. 
Bakradze acknowledged that ownership is an issue, and that 
Parliament would also address this, but defended the right of 
companies to have editorial preferences, "just as the New York Times 
does." 
 
DENOUNCING SUBARI'S POLITICIZATION 
 
14. (SBU) In response to a final question, Bakradze told the group 
that he regretted Public Defender Sozar Subari's decision to join 
politics while still the head of the Public Defender's Office (PDO). 
 He alleged that Subari is building his political base, and in the 
process is denigrating the important position and stature of the 
PDO.  Bakradze denounced Subari's allegations that he knew of 
"secret instructions by the MOIA to violently disperse the November 
2007 protests."  If he knew such information and did no make it 
public at the time, Bakradze claimed that Subari was negligent in 
his position.  Rather, Bakradze said he suspects this version of 
events was fabricated for Subari's political gain.  Bakradze also 
 
TBILISI 00000276  003 OF 003 
 
 
noted that a Deputy Public Defender resigned a week ago and 
immediately went to work for the opposition Republican Party. 
Bakradze said this casts doubt on the employee's decisions and work 
prior to them leaving the PDO, thus tainting the entire institution 
that is supposed to be a neutral arbiter and ombudsman. 
 
LOGSDON

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