09TBILISI945, GEORGIA: PROTESTS GEARING UP FOR MAY 26

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI945 2009-05-21 11:08 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9893
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0945/01 1411108
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 211108Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1601
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000945 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/21/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: PROTESTS GEARING UP FOR MAY 26 
 
REF: TBILISI 937 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Protests remained small on May 20. 
Utsnobi (Giorgi Gachechiladze) performed a rally concert in 
Batumi to kick off the non-parliamentary opposition's plan to 
bring "all of Georgia" to Tbilisi for a May 26 rally 
(independence day parade).  Post heard payments to protesters 
have recently increased from 40-50 lari a night to 70 lari a 
night.  David Gamkrelidze (Alliance - Republicans) was 
involved in a brief scuffle with police after a car 
registered to his security guard was allegedly stopped and 
impounded for speeding and reckless driving.  Gamkrelidze and 
Nino Burjanadze (Democratic Movement - United Georgia) 
described the event as a "new wave of terror".  Traffic 
police confiscated some 60 cars involved with blocking the 
airport road on May 20.  Non-parliamentary leaders blocked 
the two river roads for 40 minutes on May 21, as a result. 
Pollster Jeremy Rosner briefed the Ambassador privately on 
his protest-related polling data, which showed that while 
ruling party numbers remain low, Saakashvili is still 
enjoying 65% approval ratings and Alasania's popularity 
numbers appear to have increased as a result of the protests. 
 End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  The apparent increase in payments to 
protesters in the lead up to March 26 tends to indicate the 
non-parliamentary opposition is placing its bets on the 
planned Independence Day rally to be a game changer.  Other 
than preparing for the March 26 rally, the non-parliamentary 
opposition seems to be content maintaining a holding pattern. 
 Meanwhile, the Rosner polling data tends to conform to 
previous focus group data and anecdotal evidence that the 
government's restrained reaction to the protests are helping 
Saakashvili's rating and diminishing the non-parliamentary 
opposition.  Interestingly, Rosner's numbers seem to 
correspond to our view that a large portion of the Georgian 
electorate who is neither in the UNM nor non-parliamentary 
opposition camps is looking for somebody to take a measured 
approach and engage in dialogue.  The current perception 
appears to be that Alasania can fill that role and likely 
explains his increase in popularity.  If Alasania breaks and 
engages in dialogue, he might find very few, if any, of his 
non-parliamentary allies joining him, but a potentially 
sizable number of the general electorate ready, willing, and 
able to support him and his efforts.  End Comment. 
 
Protests Meager - Gamkrelidze Involved In Scuffle 
 
3.  (C)  A group of non-parliamentary leaders headed by 
Utsnobi and Levan Gachechiladze gave a concert in Batumi on 
May 20 to kick off their "march on Tbilisi".  A small group 
of protesters remained in front of Parliament in Tbilisi. 
More concerts are scheduled in western Georgia in the lead up 
to May 26.  Highlighting the growing frustration and split 
among the non-parliamentary opposition, Kakha Kukava 
(Conservatives) announced that the non-parliamentary 
opposition needs to decide if it will engage in dialogue or 
more radical actions, as uncertainty and indecision were 
destroying the momentum of the protests.  Meanwhile, rumor on 
the street has the payment for staying overnight increasing 
to 70 lari.  An Embassy contact, who has a friend staying in 
the cells confirmed price increases.  While anecdotal, the 
individual staying in the cells is not an opposition 
supporter, says at night he gives his passport to a 
non-parliamentary opposition representative, then collects it 
in the morning to receive payment.  This individual estimated 
Qin the morning to receive payment.  This individual estimated 
that 100% of those currently at the protests were being 
compensated.  (Embassy Comment:  The increase in payments 
likely corresponds to the non-parliamentary opposition's 
focus on a large turnout on May 26.  End Comment.) 
 
4.  (C)  At roughly 10am on May 20, patrol police stopped 
Gamkrelidze's bodyguard who was allegedly driving well beyond 
the speed limit and recklessly.  Gamkrelidze said that 
although the car was registered to his bodyguard, the car is 
actually his, and the traffic stop was a result of political 
retribution.  Post spoke with Gamkrelidze directly who 
offered a confused and unclear version of events.  According 
to press reports and news footage, Gamkrelidze heard about 
the traffic stop and immediately proceeded to the impound 
lot, sat in the patrol car and refused to leave.  After 
sitting in the car for an hour, Gamkrelidze was removed from 
the patrol car a brief scuffle ensued.  Gamkrelidze alleged 
that the incident was only one in a massive MoIA crackdown 
but, as of now, no other incidents have been reported.  Nino 
Burjanadze called the incident "political terror".  According 
to the press, Burjanadze also objected to the recent stopping 
by patrol police of her son for a minor traffic violation. 
The MoIA for its part called Gamkrelidze's version of events 
a "complete falsehood". 
 
 
TBILISI 00000945  002 OF 002 
 
 
5.  (C)  The traffic police temporarily seized
60 vehicles 
that blocked the airport road on May 19.  The 
non-parliamentary opposition gave the GoG a deadline to 
release the vehicles and threatened to close off main 
highways if the GoG does not comply and followed through on 
their threat, closing the river roads for roughly 40 minutes 
on Thursday afternoon, May 21.  MoIA representatives told 
Poloff that the vehicles have been available to be picked up. 
 According to the MoIA, owners only need to present their 
documents of ownership and pay the administrative fine. 
 
Parliamentary Opposition - Quietly Moving Forward on Reform 
Agenda 
 
6.  (C)  The Christian Democratic Party, Paata Davitaia (We 
Ourselves), and MP Gia Tortladze announced that they agreed 
that a draft of the new constitution should be prepared by 
December 31, 2009 and work should start immediately.  The 
group said that although Saakashvili had offered the 
chairmanship of the constitutional committee to an agreed 
upon opposition figure, the parliamentary minority group said 
they intended to nominate a well-respected non-partisan legal 
expert to chair the commission.  Possible nominees included 
former chairpersons of the Constitutional Court, Avtandil 
Demetrashvili and Joni Khetsuriani. 
 
Rosner Briefs Ambassador 
 
7.  (C)  Jeremy Rosner of the political consulting firm 
Quinlan, Greenburg, and Rosner which is under contract with 
the UNM briefed the Ambassador privately on the latest 
polling numbers that he has prepared for the Government 
(please fully protect this proprietary information).  In 
general, previous drops in popularity for Saakashvili and the 
UNM had leveled out with Saakashvili's personal job approval 
rating at 65%.  A hypothetical presidential poll gives 
Saakashvili vote in the high 30s, Alasania around 15% with 
Giorgi Targamadze (Christian Democratic Movement) slightly 
behind Alasania.  Burjanadze's numbers were the lowest among 
those polled.  Rosner attributed Alasania's numbers to him 
finding a temporary sweet spot, engaging in protests has not 
damaged him politically, and his more reasonable rhetoric has 
set him apart from the other non-parliamentary leaders. 
Saakashvili and the GoG are also getting credit for reaching 
out to the non-parliamentary opposition, and showing patience 
with the protests.  According to Rosner, Targamadze has lost 
a little ground for being too passive and having been 
generally sidelined during the protests.  Few view the 
protests as being successful, and the poll shows that the 
public has a general negative reaction towards them. 
Georgians view their individual economic situation as 
improving slightly, up three percent from last poll, and now 
view security and stability as their major concern.  The poll 
also reflects the large difference of opinion between Tbilisi 
and the rest of the country where Saakashvili's numbers are 
up as a whole but down 11% in Tbilisi.  Rosner believed the 
key issue for Saakashvili and the GoG was to make good on 
promises of increased democracy. 
TEFFT

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