09TBILISI932, GEORGIA: PROTESTS QUIET OVER THE WEEKEND

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI932 2009-05-18 13:56 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO6966
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0932/01 1381356
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 181356Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1584
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000932 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PROTESTS QUIET OVER THE WEEKEND 
 
REF: TBILISI 920 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Only about 1000 protesters showed up on 
Saturday and Sunday in front of Parliament.  The 
non-parliamentary opposition announced its plans to hold 
rallies in all of Georgia to prove to President Saakashvili 
that the whole country demanded his resignation.  The 
non-parliamentary opposition said it plans to organize over 
60,000 marchers on May 26, Georgian Independence Day.  EU 
representative Peter Semneby met with a number of 
non-parliamentary opposition leaders who, according to 
Semneby, have moderated their demands but want a GoG 
concession on some kind of early elections.  Semneby also 
reported that the non-parliamentary opposition said they 
hoped to respond to the GoG's latest offer of dialogue either 
Monday, May 18 or Tuesday, May 19.  On Friday, May 15, Poloff 
presented a list of accusations of violence to the Ministry 
of Internal Affairs.  The MoIA agreed to provide a status 
report as soon as possible.  Also on May 15, eight business 
associations gathered members to highlight the impact the 
protests, and the global economic crisis, were having on 
business in Georgia.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  The non-parliamentary opposition appears 
to have come to more or less a consensus that their demand 
for Saakashvili's resignation has little resonance.  While 
they seem to have moderated their demands, at least 
privately.  The non-parliamentary opposition still has no 
consensus on the way ahead; not wanting to escalate protests, 
but also unwilling to take the GoG's offer on the table. 
Finding both options unpalatable and looking to possibly 
increase their bargaining power, the non-parliamentary 
opposition is poised to try to raise a large protest march 
centered around May 26.  While non-parliamentary opposition 
leaders remain divided, there are small signs that momentum 
is pushing the group towards negotiations, mostly as a means 
for the non-parliamentary opposition to find a face saying 
way out of the current stalemate.  End Comment. 
 
Semneby Meets With Non-parliamentary Opposition 
 
3.  (C)  Peter Semneby met with the non-parliamentary 
opposition during the May 16-17.  Semneby said that he saw a 
slight shift in the opposition's tone.  He specifically noted 
that Levan Gachechiladze appeared to be taking a more 
constructive tact, and that hard-liner Salome Zourabichvili 
(Georgia's Way) had recognized that the non-parliamentary 
opposition leaders would be politically dead if they did not 
get something out of the rallies.  Semneby told the 
Ambassador that the non-parliamentary opposition was looking 
for something tangible to save face.  The non-parliamentary 
opposition's latest idea was that the GoG agree publicly to 
pre-term parliamentary elections.  Gachechiladze told Semneby 
that the non-parliamentary opposition would publicly release 
its response to the GoG's proposals on Monday, May 18 or 
Tuesday, May 19. 
 
4.  (C)  Semneby said a number of non-parliamentary 
opposition leaders had asked him about the possibility of 
arranging a meeting outside of Georgia between the 
non-parliamentary opposition and the GoG.  He reported that 
the opposition said they wanted to meet outside of the 
polarizing atmosphere in Georgia, but Semneby was unclear 
what they wanted to discuss.  The Ambassador expressed his 
skepticism about what a meeting outside of Georgia would 
accomplish and whether the GoG would even agree, noting that 
it was important for the parties to work out a solution to 
the impasse themselves.  Semneby replied that the meeting 
Qthe impasse themselves.  Semneby replied that the meeting 
idea was only a concept and agreed that any such meeting 
should not be used for the non-parliamentary opposition to 
try to rope the EU or US in as mediators or delay the 
process.  Semneby did not know the GoG's position on a public 
commitment to parliamentary elections.  Semneby had no 
meetings with GoG officials, some of whom have privately 
expressed frustration to the Ambassador that Semneby's 
frequent visits play into the hands of the most radical 
elements.  Semneby is scheduled to return on Thursday, May 21. 
 
More Protests Planned - Unity Reiterated 
 
5.  (C)  Publicly, protest organizers announced their 
intention to hold more "serious" protest rallies.  Rallies 
are scheduled to be held in Batumi, Kutaisi, Khashuri, Gori, 
and Mtskheta with the culmination of the effort to draw 
60,000 or more protesters to Rustaveli Avenue for a May 26, 
Independence Day protest.  Meanwhile, non-parliamentary 
opposition leaders are downplaying talks of a split in their 
ranks and sticking to their demands that Saakashvili resign. 
Irakli Alasania (Alliance) said that all the 
non-parliamentary opposition had the same goal; the 
resignation of Saakashvili and a change of Government.  Nino 
 
TBILISI 00000932  002 OF 002 
 
 
Burjanadze (Democratic Movement - United Georgia), however, 
called dialogue between Saakashvili and the non-parliamentary 
opposition "senseless" adding that
 only Saakashvili's 
resignation was an acceptable outcome to the current 
situation. 
 
More Suttlebutt on Government - Non-parliamentary Opposition 
Meeting 
 
6.  (C)  An Embassy contact, who did not attend the meeting, 
but had long discussions with those who did, told Poloff that 
during the non-parliamentary opposition's meeting with 
President Saakashvili, the Georgian President left no doubt 
that he felt he had the upper hand.  Apparently after 
listening patiently to Zourabichvili demanding his 
resignation, Saakashvili responded with what was described as 
a 15 minute, uninterrupted blast aimed at the 
non-parliamentary opposition.  The participant believed that 
the non-parliamentary opposition had earlier convinced 
themselves they had Saakashvili at least mildly spooked, but 
left the meeting severely disabused of that notion. 
Allegedly, Saakashvili told them what their polls numbers 
were versus his since the protests began.  He went on to 
dismiss the protests as their "personal political crisis", 
telling them that paying a bunch of people to sit on 
Rustaveli is a sign of weakness, not strength stressing even 
they (the non-parliamentary opposition) knew how ridiculous 
and pathetic they looked.  According to our source, Alasania, 
Gachechiladze, and Kakha Shartava (National Forum) all sat 
with their heads downs and did not respond.  Allegedly, 
Zourabichvili tried to respond but was told by Gachechiladze 
to stay mum.  Highlighting the fractured nature of the 
opposition, once discussions began on the government's 
proposal, Shartava allegedly told Saakashvili that he could 
not criticize the president's decision to kick Zourabichvili 
out of his government.  Shartava suggested that if 
Saakashvili took her back, he (Shartava) would view that as a 
trust building measure.  According to the participant, all 
participants from both sides except Zourabichvili struggled 
not to laugh. 
 
Business Community Reacts 
 
7.  (C)  On May 15, eight business associations, including 
the Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the American 
Chamber of Commerce, and the International Chamber of 
Commerce, gathered to discuss the worsening economic 
situation.  Many in attendance highlighted the very negative 
impact the month-long protests have had on business and 
investor confidence.  While the group contained both 
opposition and government supporters, the participants 
coalesced around their frustrations that all political forces 
were holding the country, and by default the business 
community, hostage.  Several attendees pointed out that the 
negative impact of the protests and political instability was 
made all the worse given the on-going global economic crisis. 
 The groups agreed to continue joint discussions, in 
particular to focus on ways to cooperate to push the business 
agenda in a country so focused on politics to the detriment 
of all else.  Taking advantage of this gathering, Saakashvili 
also issued public remarks that the protests have "severely 
damaged" the Georgian economy. 
 
MoIA to Provide Status on Criminal Cases 
 
8.  (C)  On Friday, May 15, Poloff met with the Deputy Head 
of Operations at the Ministry of Internal Affairs to discuss 
ongoing investigations into violence in connection with the 
protests.  Poloff turned over the Embassy's list of 
allegations and expressed our desire to see the 
investigations proceed in a normal, transparent manner. 
Poloff explained that the Embassy's goal was to track the 
QPoloff explained that the Embassy's goal was to track the 
allegations and MoIA's response in a systematic manner.  The 
MoIA official said that he was aware that the Ambassador and 
others had raised cases on multiple occasions with the MoIA, 
and expressed his willingness to provide the Embassy with an 
ongoing status report as soon as possible.  Per Polchief's 
previous discussion with the Head of the Analytical 
Department, Shota Utiashvili, Poloff and the MoIA official 
agreed to be to respective contact points to raise issues 
concerning protest related violence. 
TEFFT

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