09TBILISI920, GEORGIA: PROTESTS – NON-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI920 2009-05-15 11:31 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO5345
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0920/01 1351131
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 151131Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1567
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000920 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/15/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PROTESTS - NON-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION 
RIFT WIDENS 
 
REF: TBILISI 911 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary: The non-parliamentary opposition's pledge 
to unblock the road in front of the Georgian Public 
Broadcaster (GPB) was rescinded, then reinstated and finally 
implemented early May 14.  The back and forth highlighted the 
now open and obvious rift within the leadership of the 
non-parliamentary opposition.  Nino Burjanadze (Democratic 
Movement - United Georgia) and her supporters, in a direct 
challenge to Irakli Alasania (Alliance), managed to keep the 
road closed at least temporarily; she told the DCM that the 
"people" in the "cells" had refused to move because this 
would be a "step backwards."  However, later Alasania, 
apparently backed by Levan Gachechiladze, won the day and 
moved the "cells" off of the road.  Two major TV stations 
announced they would not cover the corridor of shame that the 
opposition was forcing GPB journalists to pass through en 
route to work, expressing solidarity with their fellow 
journalists.  A crowd of about 1000 gathered in front of 
Parliament May 14, but no other plans were announced.  In a 
meeting with a visiting Council on Foreign Relations 
delegation, Alasania announced his willingness to enter into 
a dialogue and drop his calls for Saakashvili's resignation; 
he expects that the protests and street closures would end by 
May 26.  GoG democracy point man Corrections Minister Dmitri 
Shashkin told visiting EUR/ACE Director Rosenblum that the 
Government was waiting for the non-parliamentary opposition 
to respond to the President's concrete offers of reform, but 
would move ahead soon with or without them.  Salome 
Zourabichvili (Georgia's Way) accused President Saakashvili 
of a disinformation campaign, claiming Ambassador Tefft 
verified as much.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment: Burjanadze and her supporters appear to be 
fighting a rear-guard action against Alasania and his efforts 
to move toward a more moderate position.  Privately, 
Burjanadze has been undercutting Alasania within the 
non-parliamentary opposition leadership, but the May 14 
events represent an open and public challenge.  With various 
leaders publicly exchanging words, contradicting one another, 
and challenging each other's authority, the deep animosities 
and rifts among the non-parliamentary group are heating up 
and approaching a public boiling point.  Alasania appears to 
be walking back from demands of the President's resignation 
to a more realistic and pragmatic position.  However, 
Burjanadze, who has gambled her political future on the 
success of these protests, is looking increasingly desperate. 
 Despite the growing rifts in the non-parliamentary 
opposition ranks, it appears that the end game may drag on 
for a while longer.  End Comment. 
 
Private Disagreements Become Public 
 
3.  (C)  In a challenge to Alasania's announcement that the 
non-parliamentary opposition would clear Kostava Street on 
May 15 (in front of the Georgian Public Broadcaster), 
Burjanadze led her supporters to the Public Broadcaster and 
forced Levan Gachechiladze and others to back down, leaving 
the cells in place.  Alasania responded by telling protesters 
to respect the non-parliamentary leaders' decisions.  Later, 
Burjanadze told the DCM that she had gone to Kostava Street 
in response to the "people in the cells" who had refused to 
leave the street since this would have been a "step 
backwards."  Apparently as a result of a subsequent 
non-parliamentary opposition meeting, the cells were removed 
early Friday morning.  Burjanadze left the meeting early, 
Qearly Friday morning.  Burjanadze left the meeting early, 
filmed on tv visibly furious; she refused to speak to the 
press for the first time in recent memory.  A chance meeting 
in the Marriott lobby between Burjanadze and Alasania 
(witnessed by PolOff) provided further evidence of the 
extreme animosity between the two.  Burjanadze glaed in 
disgust when she saw Alasania, who returned the look of 
contempt.  Despite being only three feet apart, the two did 
not speak to each other. 
 
Plans Still Not Apparent 
 
4.  (C)  The internal disagreements among the 
non-parliamentary opposition resulted in no further 
statements about their intentions.  The "corridor of shame" 
will be maintained in front of the Public Broadcasters, and 
daily meetings will continue to take place at 5pm in front of 
Parliament, but no other plans have been announced. 
Providing no further clarity, David Usupashvili (Alliance - 
Republicans) said that the non-parliamentary opposition had 
discussed their still-unannounced action plan with a group of 
experts, who "found it less radical than they expected." 
Usupashvili did not disclose either the action plan or who 
constituted the experts.  In a show of solidarity with 
Journalists from the Public Broadcasters, Rustavi 2 and Imedi 
 
TBILISI 00000920  002 OF 003 
 
 
announced that they would no longer report on protests in 
front of the Public Broadcaster Building.  A statement read 
that "(w)e believe that any type of pressure exerted on &#x
000A;journalists and impeding their work, no matter by whom, is 
unacceptable." 
 
Alasania Takes Another Cautious Step 
 
5.  (C)  Alasania, in comments to a Council on Foreign 
Relations delegation, said that he hoped the streets would be 
cleared by May 26 and the process would move to the 
negotiation table; he looked forward to another session with 
the government.  This position put him squarely at odds with 
the stated plans of the non-parliamentary opposition. 
Alasania acknowledged the discrepancy, noting that some 
elements of the opposition did not believe in negotiation; he 
admitted that pronouncements on April 9 of unending protests 
until Saakashvili resigned were a mistake, and he explained 
that now the opposition just needed to find a way out.  In 
terms of basic demands, he said he would be satisfied with 
early parliamentary elections and would not insist on early 
presidential ones.  When asked about a possible timeline for 
parliamentary elections, Alasania said he would not insist on 
a specific date; the most important thing would be for key 
reforms to be implemented first, such as a new election code, 
a new electoral commission, and monitoring of the Ministry of 
Internal Affairs, so that the elections would be legitimate. 
Nevertheless, he expected a clear and public commitment from 
the government to early elections once those reforms were in 
place. 
 
6. (C) When asked whom he was speaking for, Alasania replied 
the Alliance (as opposed to the whole non-parliamentary 
opposition).  In discussing the events of May 6 at the police 
station, Alasania called them damaging for the opposition and 
said they needed to move away from confrontation. 
Acknowledging that some elements did want to escalate the 
situation, he said he would distance himself publicly from 
those elements, if necessary.  At this point, however, he 
thought he could do more good inside the full group. 
(Comment:  Not only the substance, but the forum for 
Alasania's comments represents another step away from the 
rest of the opposition and toward potential compromise.  A 
conversation with a private, non-governmental organization 
like the Council falls somewhere between a private exchange 
with the Embassy and a public pronouncement.  His new demands 
largely correspond to what the GoG has said it is willing to 
offer.  The fact that he made clear that he spoke for the 
Alliance, not the united opposition, suggests that he 
realizes he is moving away from a position that many 
opposition leaders will accept.  End Comment.) 
 
7.  (C) During a May 14 meeting with visiting EUR/ACE 
Coordinator Dan Rosenblum, GoG Democracy Point Man and 
Corrections Minister Dmitri Shashkin reviewed the concrete 
offers that the President had put on the table for the 
opposition, both from within the Parliament and from the 
non-parliamentary opposition, to consider.  He said that the 
Government had wanted to give the opposition a chance to 
study the proposals, but planned to begin real discussions as 
early as this coming weekend.  Shashkin said that the plan 
was for Speaker Bakradze to publicly announce the start of 
discussions regarding a constitutional commission -- and to 
see who agreed to come.  He fully expected the parliamentary 
opposition to take part; he was less certain about which 
non-parliamentary leaders might participate. 
 
It's Left or Right but Not Down the Middle 
 
8.  (C)  MP Peter Mamradze (For a Fair Georgia - Noghaideli's 
Q8.  (C)  MP Peter Mamradze (For a Fair Georgia - Noghaideli's 
Party) told Poloff that he hoped Alasania's performance on a 
May 13 episode of the BBC's Hardtalk program, which Mamradze 
described as utterly embarrassing (and luckily in English, so 
most Georgians would not see it), would shake some sense into 
him.  Mamradze said that Alasania's position as being for 
dialogue while calling for Saakashvili's resignation was 
absurd and simply insulted everybody's intelligence. 
According to Mamradze, there were only two choices: 
meaningful political dialogue or street confrontation, and 
Alasania needed to decide quickly in which camp he resided. 
Giorgi Targamadze (Christian Democrats) told Poloff they have 
been sending Alasania the same message.  (Embassy Comment: 
Alasania is no fan of Targamadze, but has a good relationship 
with CDM MP Nika Laliashvili, who has been trying to get 
Alasania to the negotiating table.  End Comment.)  Targamadze 
said that he understood Alasania's reluctance to break from 
the non-parliamentary opposition for fear of an all out 
attack and attempt to destroy his political career. 
Targamadze (who is held in contempt by most of the 
non-parliamentary opposition leaders) said that Alasania 
might as well pursue his own path, since Burjanadze and 
others would attack him anyway.  Targamadze said Alasanias 
 
TBILISI 00000920  003 OF 003 
 
 
pursuit of the middle route would ultimately only serve to 
upset non-parliamentary supporters and supporters of dialogue 
alike, leaving him unpopular among all voting constituencies. 
 In Targamadze's opinion, the only rational political choice 
was to break and pursue dialogue. 
 
Salome Attacks the Ambassador 
 
9. (C) Salome Zourabichvili (Georgia's Way) caused a bit of a 
stir May 14 when she accused the Ambassador of both being 
duped by and perpetuating Saakashvili's alleged efforts to 
run a disinformation campaign against her and other 
opposition leaders.  Zourabichvili said that Saakashvili told 
foreign diplomats that Zourabichvili participated in the 
recent riot at a women's prison.  (Embassy Note:  Minister of 
Corrections and Legal Aid, Dmitri Shashkin told the 
Ambassador that Zourabichvili and others were caught on MoIA 
intercepts talking to inmates inside the prison encouraging 
them to riot.  End Note.)  Zourabichvili cornered the 
Ambassador at a recent event, accused Saakashvili of passing 
him the information, and the Ambassador participating in a 
disinformation campaign against her.  The Ambassador did not 
engage an irate Zourabichvili other than to suggest they 
discuss any issues she had in a more proper, private forum. 
Zourabichvili declined.  The Embassy issued a statement in 
response refusing to comment on private talks. 
TEFFT

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