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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI345 2009-02-20 12:24 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #0345/01 0511224
P 201224Z FEB 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000345 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
) AND (D). 
1. (SBU)  Summary:  During a February visit to the eastern 
province of Kakheti, Georgia's version of the Napa Valley, 
both the Deputy Governor and Christian Democratic Movement 
(CDM) opposition members stressed that the region's primary 
political concern was the local economy, specifically the 
creation of good jobs.  The Deputy Governor detailed the 
federal government's plan to bolster infrastructure in this 
agriculturally rich area.  President Saakashvili's National 
Movement (UNM) is the dominant political party in Kakheti, 
and its influence is further strengthened by its control of 
how and where government funds are spent.  The Christian 
Democratic representatives decried this patronage system and 
said it severely hindered party development.  Nevertheless, 
the Christian Democrats are dedicated to making a statement 
in the upcoming local elections in 2010 even though they face 
an uphill battle.  End Summary. 
2.  (C) Embassy Comment:  Kakheti, like Georgia's other 
regions, is largely administered by a Tbilisi appointed 
Governor who has almost exclusive control over the budget. 
This situation allows regional Governors to run a powerful 
patronage machine and limits elected local councils' ability 
to participate in major regional policy decisions.  Because 
local councils lack significant decision making or budgetary 
powers, there is little public policy debate or local 
accountability.  On the flipside, the system has cut 
bureaucratic hurdles, virtually eliminated previously rampant 
local-level corruption, and allowed for more efficient use of 
limited government resources.  Vesting so much authority in 
one official makes it sometimes difficult to tell where the 
line is between generally acceptable hard-elbow politics and 
blatant undemocratic practices.  Although there has been some 
public discussion of direct elections of mayor and regional 
governors, neither opposition leaders nor the public seem to 
view a re-thinking of the current system as a priority.  End 
UNM and CDM Agree: Economy is Job One 
3.  (SBU)  Poloff spoke to Giorgi Sibashvili, the First 
Deputy Governor, about the Kakheti Regional Administration's 
plans.  Sibashvili, like the Governor, is a UNM political 
appointee.  Sibashvili said the Administration's priority is 
to upgrade infrastructure to accommodate large-scale 
investors, hopefully in agribusiness.  (Embassy Note:  The 
GOG is planning to upgrade with World Bank assistance the 
Vaziani-Gombori-Telavi road which would reduce the current 
four-hour travel time from Telavi to Tbilisi by as much as an 
hour.  End Note.)  Kakheti has traditionally been the wine 
producing cradle of Georgia, and Sibashvili said wine 
production is a potential growth area along with wheat, 
sunflower, maize, and fruit products.  Sibashvili noted that 
with road, gas, and water system upgrades, Kakheti could be a 
more attractive place for investors.  Other potential areas 
for investment are the development of limestone and marble 
quarries.  Sibashvili said a large portion of the work force 
is unemployed or under-employed.  The main occupation in 
villages still remains small scale and subsistence farming. 
Sibashvili explained that infrastructure projects would 
provide a substantial number of construction jobs which are 
desperately needed in the local economy.  Sibashvili 
expressed his hope that investment funds would follow the 
infrastructure projects, providing Kakheti with some large 
scale, institutional employers which would vastly improve the 
Qscale, institutional employers which would vastly improve the 
economic outlook of the region.  Sibashvili indicated to 
Poloff that despite the grim budget outlook and worldwide 
recession, his budget bolstered by foreign aid would be 
sufficient to fund their ambitious infrastructure programs. 
4.  (C)  Nino Lashki (Chairman) and Vano Dalakhvradze 
(Executive Officer) of the local CDM chapter also argued tht 
the economic situation in Kakheti was difficult.  Lashki and 
Dalakhvradze agreed that investing in infrastructure was the 
preferred economic policy, although they lamented the fact 
UNM officials controlled all the purse strings.  Lashki and 
Dalakhvradze said, balancing economics with politics, the UNM 
would be able to just purchase votes through government 
coffers by being the largest employer in the region. 
Dalakhvradze said the biggest issue the region faces is how 
to make the villages productive and to find markets for their 
goods.  Both criticized the GOG for paying lip service to 
development, but not providing the necessary upgrades the 
villages need to be competitive.  They are taking a 
wait-and-see attitude towards outside investment, preferring 
to believe it when the see it.  Both stressed that investment 
would be good for their party, providing alternatives to UNM 
controlled government employment.  They argued that decent 
paying jobs in the private sector would allow more people to 
freely join their ranks without risking potential retribution. 
TBILISI 00000345  002 OF 002 &#x
UNM, CDM, New Rights/Republicans Are the Only Options 
5.  (C)  Besides the UNM which dominates the region, the only 
other active parties according to Sibashvili, Lashki, and 
Dalakhvradze are the CDM and New Rights/Republicans.  New 
Rights/Republicans have a small office, but rarely if ever 
engage with the public and never outside of Telavi according 
to Dalakhradze.  Lashki said it is difficult to organize 
anything in the winter because, besides their meager 
government provided office in the Administration building, 
they have no place to congregate and cannot afford to rent 
larger spaces.  Dalakhvradze explained that since they are 
not provided phone or other services and cannot afford them, 
the office is basically a desk or two and a few chairs. 
(Embassy Note:  The CDM representatives were too embarrassed 
to show Poloff their GOG provided office even after being 
specifically asked to see it.  CDM leaders have noted to 
Emboffs on numerous occasions that they are financially 
strapped in the regions and alleged that businesses are 
nervous about providing support for fear of Government 
retribution.  End Note.)  Sibashvili had little to say about 
the opposition, but brought up the fact that the GOG provided 
an office - saying, he much prefers they carry out their 
business in the Administration building rather than agitating 
around town.  When asked, CDM representatives said they had 
only informal contacts with the local administration because 
Telavi is a small town and everybody knows everybody. 
Sibashvili made the same point as a positive, saying the 
Administration has more than enough contact with the 
opposition because in Telavi everybody knows everybody.  It 
is clear, no formal relationship exists between the 
authorities and the opposition. 
6.  (C)  The CDM representative has divided the region into 
nine districts, each with its own precinct leaders.  The CDM 
stressed that they have been making gains but with 
difficulty.  Lashki and Dalakhvradze say they have little 
money to do much beyond visiting villages, listening to 
concerns, and explaining the CDM agenda.  In the absence of 
national elections, few people are interested in politics. 
Local residents said they are happy with the CDM leadership 
in Tbilisi, but understand they too are cash-strapped and 
lack an independent source of wealth or financing.  Their 
immediate goal is to win seats on local councils, though they 
readily acknowledge any victories would be largely symbolic 
as the councils have little formal decision making power or 
budgetary resources.  They believe that simple inertia as 
well as fear keeps their ranks from growing.  Because the 
UNM-dominated GOG distributes resources and coveted jobs, few 
people see any reason to publicly oppose the UNM and join an 
opposition party. Others view UNM membership as a way to get 
a relatively lucrative position locally.  Additionally, 
according to CDM representatives, many or most residents of 
Kakheti are largely apolitical or mildly political and are 
generally satisfied with the UNM.  One CDM representative 
said that, among those who are interested in politics, they 
get a lot of quiet support.  When asked to go public, 
however; these "supporters" say they do not want to risk the 
potential negative consequences. 
New Elections - Not Interested 
7.  (C)  Both the CDM representatives and Sibashvili said 
there is little local interest in new elections.  Sibashvili 
explained he gets constant calls about managing municipal 
issues -- not complaints about the electoral code or early 
elections (he explained to Poloff that he had just gotten a 
Qelections (he explained to Poloff that he had just gotten a 
call from a constituent who claimed his neighbor would not 
pay for damage to his fence after his neighbor's tree fell on 
it.  The caller wanted the Governor to facilitate just 
payment immediately).  The CDM representatives largely 
agreed, saying they had not seen much if any appetite for new 
elections noting that calls of elections were largely a 
Tbilisi phenomena.  Perhaps the most interesting part of the 
exchange occurred when Poloff asked the CDM representatives 
if they could name any positives that have happened in 
Georgia since the UNM took over.  Both Lashki and 
Dalakhvradze surprised themselves with the length of their 
list.  Another CDM representative began a long diatribe about 
how awful President Saakashvili was, and how oppressive the 
UNM was only to be interrupted by Dalakhvradze.  Dalakhvradze 
stated that the CDM member sounded like the rest of the 
opposition.  He continued to make the point that if you can 
only offer that Saakashvili is bad, you'll never convince 
people to vote for you, much less agree to new elections. 


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