09TBILISI679, GEORGIA: OPPOSITION PLANS FOR APRIL 9 PROTESTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI679 2009-04-07 09:22 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1319
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0679/01 0970922
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 070922Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1331
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000679 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: OPPOSITION PLANS FOR APRIL 9 PROTESTS 
MOVE FORWARD 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 660 
     B. TBILISI 657 
     C. TBILISI 618 
     D. TBILISI 585 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary/Comment:  Barring unforeseen circumstances, 
planned protests on April 9 will proceed as scheduled.  We 
expect turnout to be substantial, probably numbering in the 
tens of thousands, but likely less than the 150,000-200,000 
some non-parliamentary opposition figures have estimated. 
While April 9 could be a sizable protest, we believe 
forecasted poor weather and the orthodox holy week, which 
begins April 12, to quickly thin out the crowds making a 
long-term, large scale protest unlikely.  While the GoG and 
protest organizers agree that violence does not benefit 
either side politically, both sides remain wary of the others 
intentions.  The OSCE/UNDP-led Ambassador's working group 
will issue a statement April 8 calling on all sides to avoid 
violence, and a Department-issued statement making the same 
points would be welcome.  The Public Defenders Office plans 
on placing clearly identifiable volunteers from reputable 
NGO's as observers into the crowd which should help diffuse 
tensions and provide unbiased monitoring.  The GoG continues 
to maintain that it will allow the protests to continue as 
long as they are peaceful.  The MOIA has also invited 
international observers into the MOIA command center to 
monitor its actions.  GoG officials appear concerned about 
potential violence, but not unduly worried.  Post, GoG 
officials, and many in the non-parliamentary opposition 
believe that President Saakashvili will not resign under any 
circumstances no matter how large or protracted the protests. 
 
2.  (C)  For its part, the non-parliamentary opposition, 
instead of coming together to some sort of agreement on 
tactics and long-term strategy, appears further apart than 
ever.  The feeling among the non-parliamentary opposition 
ranges from gloom, as to the short and long term fortunes of 
the non-parliamentary movement in general, to an almost 
religious-like belief that Saakashvili will immediately 
resign on April 9.  The GoG has been very active both 
publicly and privately in offering dialogue and concrete 
concessions such as direct mayoral elections in Tbilisi. 
Despite the offers, the non-parliamentary opposition has 
openly mocked the GoG's attempts at dialogue.  With some 
justification (given some past actions), the 
non-parliamentary opposition does not trust the GoG to 
negotiate in good faith.  However, the unwillingness to 
negotiate, maximalist demands, and often condescending tone 
in public and in private, coupled with little apparent 
thought as to how the opposition's chosen course of action 
affects Georgia (for good or for bad) overall, have backed 
the non-parliamentary opposition into a corner.  Clearly, by 
pursuing an all or nothing approach, the non-parliamentary 
opposition hopes it will have more political leverage after 
April 9.  Admittedly, the members have not agreed on any 
potential demands (other than Saakashvili's immediate 
resignation) nor a coherent plan to take advantage of any 
additional political leverage.  If the protests quickly wane, 
the non-parliamentary opposition stands to be further 
diminished as a political force limiting its bargaining power 
with the GoG, and with little politically to offer the public 
other than further protests.  End Summary/Comment. 
 
April 9 Protests Planned Without a Clear Political Vision or 
Leader 
 
3.  (C)  As of April 7, all the major non-parliamentary 
parties and leaders plan to protest on April 9, however; 
Qparties and leaders plan to protest on April 9, however; 
there is no consensus as to what steps will follow.  Irakli 
Alasani's Alliance for Georgia ("Alliance") has dropped its 
plan to protest for only one day (ref C).  The Alliance is 
unsure how long it will protest, with David Gamkrelidze 
saying he hoped he would be done by Orthodox Palm Sunday 
(April 12).  The Labour Party expects to participate for one 
day, but will be "independent" from the other protesters.  It 
views joining a group with Nino Burjanadze anathema to its 
very existence, and finds the demand for Saakashvili's 
resignation unconstitutional.  Former Presidential Candidate 
Levan Gachicheladze vows to protest until Saakashvili resigns 
and is joined by other more radical leaders like Kakha Kukava 
(Conservatives), Eka Beselia (Georgia's Way - Okruashvili's 
nominal party), Koba Davitashvili (Party of the People) and 
other lesser figures.  Nino Burjanadze and Salome 
Zourabichvili's intentions are less clear.  So far, no figure 
has emerged as a leader of the fractious non-parliamentary 
groups. 
 
4.  (C)  More unsettling is that the non-parliamentary 
opposition has been unable to articulate a constitutional 
manner of effecting regime change, and appear to have no plan 
 
TBILISI 00000679  002 OF 003 
 
 
to fill the power vacuum should their demand succeed.  Post 
has seen little evidence that poten
tial non-parliamentary 
leader Irakli Alasania (Alliance) has been able to influence 
the non-parliamentary opposition to moderate its tone or 
demands.  On the contrary, it appears the radicals have 
influenced Alasania to be much more radical in his public 
rhetoric and demands.  Various non-parliamentary opposition 
figures openly express their disdain for each other in 
private.  The personality clashes between the various leaders 
further limit any potential cohesion leaving the 
non-parliamentary opposition a largely rudderless, mishmash 
of ideologically diverse parties looking for protests on 
April 9 to force Saakashvili from power.  Thus far, no 
non-parliamentary leader has come up with a "Plan B". 
 
Violence Eschewed by All but Both Sides Are Wary 
 
5.  (C)  The Ambassador has told numerous GoG interlocutors, 
non-parliamentary opposition members and the media that 
violence should be avoided and dialogue is a necessity. 
Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria reaffirmed to the 
Ambassador April 6 that the GoG has no intention of using 
force and will allow the protesters to carry on indefinitely 
as long as they remain peaceful.  Bokeria feared that some 
protesters would storm a Government building to force the GoG 
to respond.  Bokeria told the Ambassador that the GoG would 
have to respond to such an act, but he hoped (along with his 
colleagues) that any confrontation, even legitimate to 
protect the safety of the crowd or government property could 
be avoided.  Bokeria also expressed his fear that a rump 
group of protesters would physically attempt to block access 
to government building to initiate scuffles.  Other GoG 
officials have told Post on numerous occasions that they had 
no intention of using force, noting that any use of force 
would be politically damaging to them both inside and outside 
Georgia.  Additionally, the Public Defenders Office has 
authorized NGO volunteers and staff to monitor the crowd in 
small groups.  Observers will wear a "uniform" and sign a 
code of conduct outlining their duties and responsibilities 
in order to be accredited.  (Comment:  Post believes this 
initiative will be helpful in having more eyes on the crowd 
to discourage and/or quickly identify those engaged in 
unlawful behavior.  End Comment.) 
 
6.  (C)  For their part, non-parliamentary opposition members 
have all expressed their desire to maintain a peaceful, 
orderly protest.  Kakha Kukava (Conservatives) has worked out 
a deal with the MOIA to be in constant contact to ensure open 
lines of communication between the protesters and the GoG are 
available.  Nino Burjanadze mentioned that she would bring 
her own "security" people, dressed in easily identifiable 
white T-shirts to help police her own supporters.  The 
Ambassador strongly suggested that Burjanadze try to set up a 
channel of communication with the MOIA to which she agreed. 
The non-parliamentary opposition also seems to have made the 
calculation that anything other than peaceful protests would 
be politically damaging.  In discussions, non-parliamentary 
leaders mention impending government "provocations" but as of 
yet, have not provided any details or credible evidence to 
back up their assertions.  Post has been told of some 
incidents of GoG intimidation or even beatings of supporters 
by the GoG.  The Ambassador has personally followed up with 
the MOIA and other government organs on each alleged incident 
(Ref D).  (Embassy Note:  As of now, we are unable to comment 
Q(Ref D).  (Embassy Note:  As of now, we are unable to comment 
on the veracity of the claims but will continue to track 
investigations into the incidents.  End Note.) 
 
GOG Makes Numerous Offers but Position Hardening 
 
7.  (C)  Both publicly and privately, the GoG has reached out 
to non-parliamentary leaders with offers of dialogue and 
compromise.  The offer includes dialogue on constitutional 
and other reforms (Ref C).  Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugalava stated 
in an interview that he favored direct mayoral elections in 
2010 to coincide with local elections (slated to be held in 
fall 2010, but likely to be moved up to spring).  (Embassy 
Note:  Post had heard that the GoG had offered the deal 
privately to the non-parliamentary opposition a week or so 
previous to the announcement.  End Note.).  Privately, the 
GoG indicated that pre-term parliamentary elections could be 
discussed, but only in 2010 at the earliest.  Thus far the 
non-parliamentary opposition has rebuffed all offers. 
Bokeria again told the Ambassador that the GoG was open to 
dialogue but stated that hedid not believe the 
non-parliamentary opposition had any desire to negotiate. 
Bokeria expressed his belief that the non-parliamentary 
opposition would wait until April 9, then demand the terms 
that were previously on the table.  Bokeria succinctly stated 
that every political actor faced consequences for his or her 
decisions.  Bokeria stated that the non-parliamentary 
opposition clearly thought that pursuing protests gave it 
more leverage, but would have to deal with reality if they 
 
TBILISI 00000679  003 OF 003 
 
 
miscalculated.  Bokeria said offers were still on the table 
but was not optimistic of any sort of agreement. 
 
Non-parliamentary Opposition Rejects Dialogue 
 
8.  (C)  While the non-parliamentary opposition leaders have 
stated they are open to dialogue, not a single leader has 
indicated to Post they are currently willing to speak with 
the GoG.  The common theme is that they will not negotiate 
with President Saakashvili because he has no credibility. 
When asked about working with Minister for the Penitentiary, 
Probation, and Legal Assistance Dima Shashkin, David 
Gamkrelidze and Nino Burjanadze separately called the 
proposition a "joke" (Ref A).  Others have publicly mocked 
the initiative.  When pushed, Gamkrelidze said he would speak 
with Saakashvili but only at the Patriarch's residence with 
international observers.  Other non-parliamentary leaders 
echo the sentiment.  Non-parliamentary opposition leaders 
alternate between saying they cannot work with anybody but 
Saakashvili because he is the sole decision-maker in Georgia 
to saying they cannot work with Saakashvili because he has no 
credibility, all the while maintaining an "openess" to 
dialogue.  It seems that most of the non-parliamentary 
opposition has no intention of engaging in any dialogue 
before April 9. 
 
Business Leaders Fret - Patriarch Calls for Peace and 
Restraint 
 
9.  (C)  Perhaps sensing the public mood, the Patriarch Ilia 
II called for a peaceful protest rally and hoped that all 
parties would exercise restraint and wisdom and has privately 
advised many with the same message (Ref B).  Numerous 
business leaders have expressed their frustration at the 
non-parliamentary opposition, growing tired of protests 
without policy.  A business person told econoff that the 
resignation of Saakashvili would be a disaster for the 
Georgian economy and said that many in the non-parliamentary 
opposition were simpl
y a bunch of power-hungry opportunists. 
Two representatives for Rakia Free Industrial Zone (both of 
whom claimed they would support Alasania if elections were 
held) said the only thing potential investors asked about was 
political stability and did so over and over again.  Both 
representatives stated that the current political situation 
with seemingly unending protests was bad for business. 
 
Number Estimates Vary - Weather As A Factor - Holy Week 
 
10.  (C)  Most non-parliamentary opposition leaders are 
predicting roughly 100,000 - 150,000 protesters for the April 
9 rally.  GoG estimates are usually around 25,000 to perhaps 
50,000 maximum with the caveat that even if there are 
200,000, no GoG official would resign as a result. 
Considering that only 80-100,000 were in the street after 
Shevernadze resigned during the Rose Revolution and roughly 
50,000 turned out for the November 7, 2007 protests, the 
non-parliamentary opposition numbers seem optimistic. 
Non-parliamentary opposition leaders might have already set a 
trap for themselves by their own rhetoric, where 75,000 could 
be labeled a failure.  As of now, the weather forecast is 
predicting a likelihood of rain every day from Wednesday, 
April 8 until Sunday, April 12 which is Orthodox Palm Sunday 
and the beginning of orthodox Holy Week.  If the weather 
prediction holds, rain and religious holidays might dissuade 
many from joining the protest, at least for an extended 
period. 
TEFFT

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