09TBILISI1165, GEORGIA: MINISTER SHASHKIN – GOG TO MOVE FORWARD

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1165 2009-06-25 13:04 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO8794
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1165/01 1761304
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 251304Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1809
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 001165 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/25/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: MINISTER SHASHKIN - GOG TO MOVE FORWARD 
 
REF: A. TBILISI 1069 
     B. TBILISI 0979 
     C. TBILISI 0968 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT.  REASONS:  1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Minister of Corrections and Legal Aid, 
Dmitri Shashkin gave Poloff a wide-ranging assessment of the 
current political situation and the GoG's plans to move 
forward with its reform agenda without non-parliamentary 
opposition participation.  Shashkin said that the GoG no 
longer harbored hopes that any in the non-parliamentary 
opposition would engage in dialogue with the government so it 
no longer made sense to continue negotiations and draw out 
the process.  Shashkin predicted a new round of protests in 
the fall after the non-parliamentary opposition leaders took 
their August vacations; however, he felt they would be small 
and ineffective.  Shashkin said that the new chairman of the 
Constitutional Commission presents an organizational 
challenge but is not an obstacle to reform.  Shashkin 
provided more behind the scenes insights into how the 
protests and negotiations unfolded.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  Usually an optimist, Shashkin's 
frustration with the non-parliamentary opposition's 
unwillingness or inability to engage was obvious, and he 
repeatedly expressed his doubt that any among the group were 
truly interested in doing the nuts and bolts work of 
reforming and improving Georgia's democracy.  The GoG clearly 
believes incorporating the non-parliamentary opposition into 
the political process is to their advantage but has come to 
the conclusion that moving forward on democratic reform alone 
is currently the best of a number of imperfect options.  End 
Comment. 
 
History on the GoG's Frustration 
 
3.  (C)  Shashkin, who headed the Tbilisi office for the 
International Republican Institute before becoming minister, 
said that the difference between the public and private faces 
of the non-parliamentary opposition was striking.  Shashkin, 
who was in the non-parliamentary meeting with President 
Saakashvili on May 11 said that not oncedid any of the 
non-parliamentary leaders ask Saakashvili directly for his 
resignation.  Shashkin confirmed that Saakashvili was direct 
and stated that he would not resign.  According to Shashkin, 
Saakashvili said he was open to listening to their 
suggestions, which they had trouble formulating.  Shashkin 
said that Alasania talked about amnesty for opposition 
supporters and Saakashvili quickly agreed an arrangement 
could be worked out.  Shashkin characterized the meeting as 
Saakashvili continually asking the non-parliamentary 
opposition what else they wanted.  Vague responses such as 
judicial freedom, opposition oversight of key ministries, a 
stronger parliament and other such ideas were offered to 
which Saakashvili responded that all were acceptable and 
asked the non-parliamentary opposition for their specific 
proposals.  According to Shashkin, they received nothing from 
the other side but were still willing to entertain any 
proposals the non-parliamentary opposition offered.  Shashkin 
said that in private meetings the non-parliamentary leaders 
were unsure of themselves and understood that they had little 
bargaining power, albeit without any idea of what they wanted 
or could accept as a face-saving compromise. 
 
4.  (C)  Shashkin said he had hoped that Alasania and his 
team would be reasonable and that perhaps David Usupashvili 
(Alliance - Republicans) would come around but, like the 
other non-parliamentary opposition, they lived in their own 
Qother non-parliamentary opposition, they lived in their own 
tone-deaf political reality.  Shashkin told Poloff that 
Bakradze was extremely irked with Alasania who had a number 
of private meetings with Bakradze.  Shashkin repeated the 
familiar complaint that Alasania would agree to something and 
be constructive with Bakradze behind closed doors, then 
attend a rally the next day and call for Saakashvili's 
resignation.  Shashkin assessed Alasania as a weak, uncertain 
politician with little sense of what he wanted to accomplish. 
 Shashkin said that he believed Alasania had an opportunity 
to capture a large, broad, moderate swath of the electorate 
by breaking from the non-parliamentary opposition and 
negotiating with the GoG but that chance had passed. 
Shashkin said that Usupashvili, though often personally 
reasonable, was still trapped by his personal animosity 
toward Saakashvili as well as by the more radical members of 
his party.  As for the others, Shashkin said he had little 
hope from the outset they would negotiate.  Countering the 
claim that the protests were a struggle for democratic 
values, Shashkin said that the only real issue discussed at 
the Saakashvili-Gachechiladze meeting was a payoff and 
amnesty.  (Embassy Comment:  Shashkin acknowledged that an 
offer was made but Gachechiladze thought it was too low.  End 
 
TBILISI 00001165  002 OF 003 
 
 
Comment.)  Shashkin then said marginal figures
 such as Gia 
Maisashvili (Party of the Future) and Kakha Gamsakhurdia 
(Freedom Party) had said that they would accept USD 300,000 a 
piece to quit protesting which garnered quite a chuckle among 
Saakashvili and his inner circle. 
 
These Guys Had a Chance - What Happened with The Patriarch 
 
5.  (C)  Shashkin then said that if the non-parliamentary 
opposition were smart, they could have pocketed substantial 
concessions and taken credit for them.  Shashkin said that 
until recently, Saakashvili was ready to negotiate and 
supported Bakradze and others using back channels to work a 
deal, but now he has determined that back channel 
negotiations are pointless.  Shashkin said that after May 26, 
a number of people in the GoG were surprised that the 
non-parliamentary opposition could gather some 60,000 
protesters.  (Embassy Note:  Shashkin called this a good 
thing to remind the GoG that regardless of their personal 
assessments of the non-parliamentary opposition leaders 
themselves, a significant number of Georgians are unhappy 
with their current situation.  End Note.)  He said that he 
was watching the rally with Bakradze, Minister of Interior, 
Vano Merabishvili, Minister of Justice Zurab Adeishvili and a 
few others when they received a phone call from a source in 
the Patriarchate telling them that the Patriarch was planning 
to attend the rally.  Shashkin said everybody immediately 
understood the significance of such a gesture but also knew 
they had "no leverage whatsoever over the Patriarch" to 
convince him not to go.  Shashkin said that when Giorgi 
Gachechiladze (Utsnobi) entered the stadium as a messiah 
figure carrying an icon, the Patriarch became enraged and 
subsequently gave a statement in his sermon widely viewed as 
condemning the non-parliamentary opposition and supporting 
Saakashvili (ref B). 
 
6.  (C)  Shashkin said that anti-GoG forces inside the 
Patriarchate who he identified as the church secretary and 
press attache convinced the Patriarch to backtrack two days 
later and issue a more neutral statement (ref C).  Shashkin 
said the Patriarch is constantly balancing pro-Western and 
modernizing voices versus arch-conservative voices.  He 
guessed that the Patriarch was going to attend the rally to 
try to push for some reconciliation, but decided against 
attending because he believed that the non-parliamentary 
opposition would politicize his appearance and claim the 
church's support.  In any event, Shashkin said that the 
non-parliamentary opposition miscalculated and instead of 
parlaying the rally into leverage in negotiations to provide 
deliverables to their supporters; they again demanded 
Saakashvili's resignation and subsequently lost their 
bargaining power.  Shashkin said that the Patriarch was not 
currently playing any particular role but remained a wild 
card over which the GoG had little to no influence. 
 
What's Next 
 
7.  (C)  Shashkin said the GoG would move forwrd with both 
the Electoral Law Working Group and Constitutional 
Commission.  When asked his assessment of the Chairman 
Avtandil Demetriashvili, Shashkin rolled his eyes and called 
him his "biggest headache"(ref A).  Shashkin said 
Demetriashvili had focused more on logistics of the 
commission rather than the substantive challenges. 
Nevertheless, Shashkin said that Demetriashvili was 
acceptable to virtually everybody (even the non-parliamentary 
opposition has not criticized him) and had no personal agenda 
Qopposition has not criticized him) and had no personal agenda 
so his "headache" was tolerable.  Shashkin said working group 
leaders would drive the process, and he was confident of the 
caliber of the participants to produce solid recommendations. 
 Shashkin said the commission was a work in process but the 
GoG's goal was to strengthen Parliament and the Judiciary 
vis-a-vis the Executive.  He said that Saakashvili completely 
agreed in principle on these changes.  Shashkin said that 
Saakashvili supported giving Parliament the ability to choose 
some or all of the Cabinet of Ministers depending on the 
mechanism.  Shashkin said that the non-parliamentary 
opposition would and has been trying to discredit the 
process, but he indicated that he was not overly concerned 
that their complaints would resonate beyond their hard-core 
supporters. 
 
8.  (C)  Shashkin predicted more protests in late August or 
September after the non-parliamentary leaders returned from 
vacation but did not believe they would be large scale or 
ongoing.  Shashkin said the non-parliamentary opposition had 
largely discredited itself but that further protests would be 
another "headache".  Shashkin said that the perfect solution 
would have been to involve the non-parliamentary opposition 
in the process and produce some sort of win-win face saving 
compromise.  Shashkin said a tremendous amount of thought and 
 
TBILISI 00001165  003 OF 003 
 
 
effort was put into trying to formulate a way to allow the 
non-parliamentary opposition to save face but was rejected 
every time by non-parliamentary leaders.  Shashkin said the 
GoG had no choice but to initiate reforms on its own as the 
best among possible choices but said that nobody in the GoG 
viewed this scenario as a victory. 
TEFFT

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