09TBILISI909, GEORGIA: PROTESTS – SOME BLUSTER, LITTLE ACTION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI909 2009-05-13 13:42 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3287
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0909/01 1331342
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 131342Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1556
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000909 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/13/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PROTESTS - SOME BLUSTER, LITTLE ACTION 
 
REF: TBILISI 0906 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  A small crowd of 2000-2500 appeared in 
front of Parliament Tuesday May, 12 for what was scheduled to 
be a major announcement on the non-parliamentary opposition's 
new action plan in response to their meeting with 
Saakashvili.  No announcement of blocking roads or other near 
term actions was made.  Levan Gachechiladze said that on May 
26, (Georgian Independence Day) the non-parliamentary 
opposition would gather 100,000 protesters to block the 
traditional military parade on Rustaveli avenue.  Meanwhile, 
Irakli Alasania (Alliance) stated that although there were 
disagreements between the non-parliamentary opposition and 
the GoG, dialogue was needed.  The American Chamber of 
Commerce issued a statement calling for dialogue stating that 
businesses are suffering from blocked roads and ongoing 
protests.  Speaker David Bakradze is scheduled to hold a 
diplomatic corps briefing on the GoG's reform plans on the 
afternoon of Wednesday, May 13.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  The non-parliamentary opposition 
backtracked significantly on its promises to cripple the 
country with road blockages and expanded protests, despite 
issuing defiant statements.  Shifting their focus to disrupt 
a national holiday two weeks away seems more like a last 
ditch effort to provoke some sort of confrontation than a 
part of a coherent strategy.  For the time being, the GoG 
still seems perfectly content to allow the protesters to 
block Rustaveli Avenue, stop the annual parade, and suffer 
the negativ political fallout that is sure to ensue. 
Meanwhile, non-parliamentary leaders face what has to be an 
unpalatable choice for many to negotiate or continue street 
action which is much more likely to lead to their own 
political irrelevance than Saakashvili's resignation.  End 
Comment. 
 
The Opposition Considers Its Options 
 
3.  (C)  According to Alasania, the non-parliamentary group 
intended to meet to discuss its response to Saakashvili's 
proposals.  Apparently, Alasania did not attend the meeting 
and Post is unaware of any concrete outcome other than the 
non-parliamentary opposition met for four hours.  Speaker 
Bakradze told the Ambassador he was unclear as to what was 
transpiring.  The non-parliamentary opposition has at least 
temporarily shelved its plans to block major highways and 
ports of entry.  Instead, they issued statements about 
organizing 100,000 people to block plans to celebrate 
Georgian Independence Day festivities on May 26.  (Embassy 
Comment:  Alasania told the Ambassador that a group headed by 
Nino Burjanadze hoped for conflict, even violent conflict on 
May 26.  End Comment.)  A clearly frustrated Levan 
Gachechiladze said that protesters would gather at Paichadze 
National Stadium which holds 60,000 so skeptics could not 
question their numbers.  (Embassy Comment:  Post finds that 
the non-parliamentary opposition seems to believe their often 
wildly exaggerated protests numbers.  Gachechiladze's comment 
seems to echo the frustration that independent observers do 
not agree.  End Comment.)  Bakradze expressed his confusion 
as to Gachechiladze's position, saying that it was his 
impression that Gachechiladze was leaning towards 
negotiations. 
 
4.  (C)  Press reports claimed that the GoG planned to clear 
the cells on May 16 which led to a fiery response by Eka 
Beselia who said force would be met with force.  (Embassy 
QBeselia who said force would be met with force.  (Embassy 
Note:  Although the press reported the statement, we have no 
indications that the GoG is planning any action.  End Note.) 
The non-parliamentary opposition has applied to extend its 
protest permit to at least May 26, the answer is still 
pending with the Mayor's office but is expected on May 13. 
As of now, the non-parliamentary opposition has shifted its 
strategy to focus on May 26 possibly to force some sort of 
street conflict.  The logic behind the strategy is somewhat 
curious considering that Saakashvili explicitly told the 
non-parliamentary opposition (according to both Alasania and 
Bakradze) that he would take no action against the 
protesters, though it may be a stalling tactic to buy more 
time to consider a response to Saakashvili's offer of 
dialogue. 
 
AmCham Speaks Up 
 
5.  (C)  AmCham-Georgia, which had been reluctant to comment 
on the ongoing situation, issued a statement calling for 
dialogue but said that "(r)esidents of Tbilisi and visitors 
to the city have been inconvenienced by the blocking of major 
traffic arteries since April 9, and businesses are suffering 
from both the direct effects of these blockades and from the 
 
TBILISI 00000909  002 OF 002 
 
 
picture of political uncertainty and instability that they 
present to partners, customers and investors."  The statement 
went on to say that "(w)e encourage both sides to demonstrate 
their respect for the Georgian people, and their c
oncern for 
the viability of the country's economy and institutions, by 
immediately allowing the life and commerce of the capital to 
resume unhindered, and to cooperate with each other towards 
agreement on long term political solutions that will 
stabilize the situation and benefit the country as a whole." 
(Embassy Comment:  The statement, though moderate represents 
the privately expressed view of the vast majority of AmCham 
members that the protests hurt businesses and need to end. 
End Comment.) 
TEFFT

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