09TBILISI1000, GEORGIA: NON-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION SPLINTERING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1000 2009-06-01 13:44 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7382
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1000/01 1521344
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 011344Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1644
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 001000 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/08/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: NON-PARLIAMENTARY OPPOSITION SPLINTERING 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary/Comment:  The non-parliamentary opposition 
has long consisted of a disparate group of individuals with 
divergent and often contradictory aims.  Despite their 
obvious tactical disagreements and often mutual disdain among 
the leaders, they were able to remain united for nearly two 
months around two principles: they greed that forcing 
Saakashvili to resign in the short term would be in their 
political interests; and they agreed that unity among the 
group gave them significant leverage and that no block or 
faction was strong enough on its own to force Saakashvili to 
resign.  Forcing Saakashvili's resignation was always a long 
shot, and many appear to be reassessing the utility of 
continuing to pursue this goal seven weeks into protests. 
Time has exacerbated the deep divisions within the group. 
The situation remains fluid, but a split has appeared between 
those non-parliamentary leaders who want to secure and 
protect their political future (Alasania - National Forum 
members) and those who feel that the protests are their last 
best chance (Burjanadze - Zourabichvili - Gamkrelidze) at 
political relevance.  A number of fence sitters such as Levan 
Gachechiladze, David Usupashvili (Republicans) and Zviad 
Dzidziguri/Kakha Kukava (Conservatives) still appear 
undecided as to whether to salvage their political futures or 
gamble that more provocative actions can still bring about 
regime change.  It important to note that these groups are 
highly fluid and subject to constant change. End 
Summary/Comment. 
 
The Radicals 
 
2.  (C)   Burjanadze, Beselia, Zourabichvili, Koba 
Davitashvili, probably David Gamkrelidze and a number of 
lesser figures comprise this highly radicalized group that 
believes in using the streets to make changes in government. 
The group believes that continuing the ongoing protests is 
their last, best chance at true political relevance in 
Georgia and they have gambled everything on these protests. 
Burjanadze, Zourabichvili and to some extent Gamkrelidze, 
appear to have little incentive to wait until 2010 for 
bi-elections or 2012 for parliamentary elections when the 
highest payoff would be a seat in Parliament or perhaps Mayor 
of Tbilisi.  Gamkrelidze declined his parliamentary mandate 
in 2008, and it is unlikely that former Foreign Minister 
Zourabichvili, or former Speaker Burjanadze have any interest 
in waiting a year or three to be an opposition back bencher 
in Parliament.  Their popularity is miniscule in any event. 
 
3.  (C)  With little incentive to compromise, the continued 
pursuit of Saakashvili's resignation makes political sense 
for them, despite the odds.  Burjanadze, Zourabichvili, and 
Gamkrelidze seem to be making the calculus that more radical 
actions such as blocking highways, airports, or railroads 
will provoke a GoG overreaction that could galvanize the 
Georgian public to rally to their support and back their 
demand for Saakashvili's resignation.  In their calculations, 
while probably the longest of long-shots, if they are seen as 
the leaders of a massive public uprising to overthrow 
Saakashvili, they could be swept into power.  Even among the 
radicals there is division.  Beselia and Davitashvili 
represent the most radical of leaders of very minor parties 
for whom protesting appears to be an end in itself.  They 
have not expressed interest beyond the revolutionary option. 
The question remains if the Dead-Enders have enough personal 
QThe question remains if the Dead-Enders have enough personal 
popularity and financial resources to keep the protests going 
without the moderates in large enough numbers to engage in 
the actions they have promised. 
 
The My-Political-Future-Is-Ahead-of-Me Crowd 
 
4.  (C)  Irakli Alasania and the National Forum comprise the 
more strategic and cautious group and will possibly include 
others when the dust settles.  Alasania has long flirted with 
breaking from the radicals; recognizing that Saakashvili's 
resignation is essentially off the table, he appears poised 
to go his own way.  As respected pollster Jeremy Rosner told 
the Ambassador, it appears that Alasania found the "sweet 
spot" in these protests.  To the public, by joining in the 
protests, Alasania managed to establish his credentials as a 
serious opposition, but in his outreach to the government, he 
has portrayed himself as a moderate focused on dialogue. 
After much delay and only after it appeared unlikely that 
these protests might short-circuit the process and sweep him 
into power, Alasania and his team approached the 
International Republican Institute (IRI) for assistance in 
setting up an independent political party  (Embassy Note: IRI 
has agreed and has tentatively set up a 3-4 day workshop for 
early June.  End Note.) 
 
5.  (C)  Alasania publicly stated that he would not support 
 
TBILISI 00001000  002 OF 003 
 
 
"crippling" the country by blocking roads, airports, or &#x
000A;railways and has outlined an alternative plan agreeing to 
talks with the GoG without preconditions.  Although Alasania 
said his public disagreement with Gamkrelidze on tactics 
would not split the Alliance (the Alliance is led by 
Alasania, Gamkrelidze and Usupashvili) clearly their 
interests are diverging.  David Usupashvili (Alliance - 
Republicans) confirmed that Gamkrelidze and Alasania were on 
very different paths and even said he and Alasania were 
diverging.  Alasania never held much sway within the 
non-parliamentary opposition, but appears to be moving closer 
to a natural political space appealing to moderate, centrist 
voters.  Nevertheless, Alasania has been careful not to 
rhetorically distance himself too much from the rest of the 
non-parliamentary opposition. 
 
6.  (C)  The National Forum led by Kahka Shartava (a former 
Georgian diplomat who worked in Embassy Moscow 1996-2000 and 
son of Zhiuli Shartava, chairman of the Abkhaz Council of 
Ministers who was executed by the Abkhaz militia in 1993), 
includes former members of the Traditionalists Union Irakli 
Melashvili (sometime politician and businessman) and Gubaz 
Sanikidze (well known historian like his father).  The 
National Forum was established in late 2006 and played a 
minor role in politics until the recent protests during which 
its profile has grown considerably.  The National Forum's 
policy agenda is not well established other than preferring a 
parliamentary republic and having a strong 
patriotic/nationalist leaning.  Shartava and Sanikidze are 
both well spoken, have impressive biographies and seem to 
have filled a niche of being staunchly anti-Saakashvili while 
not appearing to be rank political opportunists.  Shartava 
and company are relative moderates and have significantly 
nuanced their tone in recent weeks.  The National Forum, 
which Alasania has called a potential partner, ordered its 
supporters to leave the cell city and has stopped protesting. 
 Sanikidze said that the National Forum would focus on 
building support in the provinces.  Like Alasania, National 
Forum leaders have been careful about distancing themselves 
from their non-parliamentary allies, but appear more focused 
on consolidating their gains in popularity rather than 
forcing Saakashvili's immediate resignation. 
 
On the Fence - Waiting for the Wind to Blow 
 
7.  (C)  Opposition figures like Levan Gachechiladze, 
Usupashvili, Dzidziguri, and Kukava seem to be waiting for 
the dust to clear, although Gachechiladze and Usupashvili 
appear to be more in line with Alasania while Dzidziguri and 
Kukava with the radicals.  Gachechiladze's political agenda, 
as always, is opaque.  Like Burjanadze and Zourabichvili, 
Gachechiladze appears primarily interested in his own 
political gain.  Gachechiladze has shown no interest in 
leading a political party nor being a number two in another. 
Ever the political opportunist, Gachechiladze probably 
prefers to ride the fence and recalculate his fortunes at a 
later date.  On May 26, after the Patriarch's statements, 
Gachechiladze struck a moderate, measured tone, but did not 
rule out further protests.  He was notably absent from the 
protest on May 27.  However, after the second statement from 
the Patriarchate, Gachechiladze reappeared on stage and 
criticized the West for "indifference." 
 
8.  (C)  Usupashvili seems to be at a personal crossroads, 
unlikely to achieve higher office on his own, but seems 
Qunlikely to achieve higher office on his own, but seems 
unwilling to accept a reduced role in another party or 
coalition.  More a constitutional policy wonk than a 
traditional politician, Usupashvili is personally less 
radical than his colleagues with whom he has found common 
cause.  Nonetheless, Usupashvili still appears torn between 
pursuing radical aims or playing a longer political game, 
likely in some sort of coalition with Alasania.  Dzidziguri 
and Kukava also are balancing their natural instincts towards 
radicalism and an escalation of protests versus their equally 
strong desire to remain politically relevant.  Whichever way 
they turn, apart from possibly Gachechiladze, the 
fence-sitters are poised to remain lesser, more complementary 
players rather than leaders. 
 
Never Really In - Not Really Noticed Out 
 
9.  (C)  Koka Gamsakhurdia (Freedom Party), George 
Maisashvili (Party of the Future), Guguli Magradze (Women's 
Party) and Akaki Asantiani (Traditionalists) who formed the 
Alliance of Freedom announced their split with the 
non-parliamentary opposition on May 26.  Admitting they had 
only a nominal role in the decision-making process, the 
Alliance for Freedom said it would proceed according to its 
own plans.  A number of other marginal political leaders have 
taken part in the protests at times, but have not played a 
key role.  Shalva Natelashvili (Labor) finds himself in a 
 
TBILISI 00001000  003 OF 003 
 
 
familiar position, being in the unaligned opposition. 
Natelashvili appeared at the initial April 9 rally then chose 
not to participate further.  He surprised the crowd (and 
organizers) by showing up at the May 26 rally to a 
enthusiastic response, probably swelling the number of people 
in the crowd with his own supporters, but other 
non-parliamentary leaders did not allow him to address the 
crowd.  Natelashvili's Labor party continues to play its own 
unique role in Georgia political life always hovering around 
4-7 percent support while the Alliance of Freedom and other 
small parties have much less popular support and are poised 
to play only a very marginal role in Georgian politics. 
TEFFT

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