10TBILISI222, GEORGIA: THREE MONTHS BEFORE LOCAL ELECTIONS –

WikiLeaks Link

To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.
Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol).Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #10TBILISI222.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10TBILISI222 2010-02-22 14:41 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO9855
OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #0222/01 0531441
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 221441Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2917
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000222 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/16/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: THREE MONTHS BEFORE LOCAL ELECTIONS - 
OPPOSITION IN DISARRAY, UNM STRONG 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN R. BASS FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D). 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  Recent internal United National Movement 
(UNM) polling shows officially-undeclared mayoral candidate 
Gigi Ugulava with a commanding lead over opposition rivals. 
The trend lines indicate that Ugulava's active grassroots 
outreach has paid significant dividends while opposition 
inaction, notably by chief rival Irakli Alasania 
(Alliance/Our Georgia - Free Democrats), has eroded their 
support and widened the gap in the UNM's favor.  Former PM 
Zurab Noghaideli's decision to court Moscow has further split 
the non-parliamentary opposition and reinforced its focus on 
fruitless backroom dealings and internal squabbling rather 
than campaigning.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (C)  Comment:  Diligent, focused efforts by the UNM 
appear likely to pay electoral dividends while the 
non-parliamentary opposition is turning what should have been 
a solid electoral opportunity into a likely failure. 
Long-simmering fissures among the non-parliamentary 
opposition have grown into public disagreements. 
Noghaideli's controversial move to embrace Russia has split 
the non-parliamentary opposition on ideological grounds, but 
personality and financial incentives still play the dominant 
role behind the scenes.  On the other hand, the 
disorganization/reorganization among the non-parliamentary 
opposition only strengthens UNM's dominant electoral 
position.  Sadly but perhaps predictably, the 
non-parliamentary opposition once again appears unable to 
learn from past failures.  Meanwhile, UNM has coalesced 
around Ugulava who is energized, and ironically, showing his 
rivals that one does not need to spend vast sums of money to 
make a discernible impact.  End Comment. 
 
UNM Strong, Facing Unlikely Opposition Problem 
 
3.  (C)  The UNM's American pollster (please protect) shared 
with the Ambassador polling for the UNM that shows currently 
undeclared UNM candidate Gigi Ugulava with a commanding lead. 
 Ugulava's raw numbers put his support at near 50 percent; 
with allocations of undecideds, Ugulava is likely to grab 60 
percent of the vote.  Alasania runs a distant second, winning 
just over 10 percent of the vote.  The rest of the vote is 
scattered among many marginal candidates.  Ugulava's numbers 
have been trending dramatically upwards in the last six 
months, while Alasania's numbers trended downwards.  Polling 
and focus groups indicate the numbers reflect Ugulava's 
engagement versus Alasania's inaction.  Alasania has done 
little visible campaigning in Tbilisi since announcing his 
candidacy months ago and spent much of December and January 
traveling abroad in Europe and the U.S..  Ugulava continues 
to work hard; he told the Ambassador he spends a chunk of 
each day meetings with 3-4 groups of citizens in their 
neighborhoods, fielding complaints and requests.  The current 
numbers have created a dilemma the UNM did not expect -- how 
to prepare to handle what is shaping up to be a resounding 
victory, yet still ensure widespread public confidence in the 
results.  The Pollster noted that, ironically, what the UNM 
needed was a semi-coherent opposition, but there was little 
indication that the non-parliamentary opposition could 
coalesce around any one leader. 
 
Noghaideli Flirts with Moscow - Other "Democrats" Follow 
 
4.  (C)  Although there have always been obvious fissures in 
the non-parliamentary opposition, former Prime Minister 
Noghaideli's embrace of a pro-Russian strategy appears to be 
QNoghaideli's embrace of a pro-Russian strategy appears to be 
the straw that broke the camel's back.  Privately, the 
general view of the UNM, CDM, Alliance and other more 
moderate political actors is that Noghaideli is a "feckless 
idiot", a "useful idiot for UNM", a "shameless clown" and so 
on.  An increasingly moderate Salome Zourabichvili (Georgia's 
Way) told the Ambassador that Noghaideli was so unpopular and 
such a perfect foil, she almost believed that he was acting 
on behalf of the UNM.  Alasania told the Ambassador that he 
has heard that Noghaideli has discussed nothing of any 
importance with Russian authorities and was "selected" simply 
because he was in Moscow when Putin thought it would be 
useful to openly interfere in Georgian domestic politics. 
Noghaideli told the DCM that he was pursuing a logical course 
by speaking to Russian officials noting that Saakashvili's 
decision to ignore Russia was a failed policy.  Noghaideli 
said he was surprised at the high level at which he had been 
received in Moscow, and noted that he only had signed a 
framework agreement with United Russia and not discussed 
thorny bilateral issues.  Noghaideli maintained that he was 
simply trying to foster communication with Russian 
authorities (and in time South Ossetian and Abkhaz) to try to 
find workable solutions to re-incorporate South Ossetia and 
Abkhazia into Georgia. 
 
TBILISI 00000222  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
5.  (C)  Wh
atever Noghaideli's motives, at present he stands 
to capture only a small portion of the Georgian electorate 
which is potentially open to closer relations with the 
Kremlin.  IRI and NDI polling on Georgian views as to who is 
to blame for the 2008 August War; whether or not Russian 
aggression continues; and whether or not Russia is a partner 
or enemy suggest that only 5-10 percent of the electorate 
would be receptive to a pro-Russian policy.  Noghaideli 
dismissed the argument saying that polls show generally that 
Georgians have anti-Russia feelings, but the reality was 
Georgian views were more complex and the public generally 
supported his initiatives because Georgians realized that 
"somebody had to speak to Moscow."  Despite Noghaideli's 
optimism, it appears unlikely that Noghaideli has any chance 
to leverage his northern turn into electoral support 
especially considering that former "pro-Western democrats" 
such as Zviad Dzidziguri (Conservatives), Koba Davitashvili 
(People's Party) and even former Speaker Nino Burjanadze 
(Democratic Movement - United Georgia) have also thrown their 
hats into the "support for dialogue with Russia" ring. 
 
AWOLasania 
 
6.  (C)  According to recent IRI and NDI polling, Alasania's 
personal numbers remain high.  However, he is a distant 
second to current Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava when viewed 
through the prism of the mayoral election.  Alasania's 
downward trend lines appear to be a troubling sign for his 
candidacy.  Internal UNM polling now shows Alasania winning 
only a shade above 10 percent for the Tbilisi mayoral race, 
nearly half of the support he enjoyed two months ago. 
Alasania faces two difficult political tasks: to turn his 
personal approval ratings into solid political support; and 
to pivot from detached, foreign-policy focused diplomat into 
a credible mayoral candidate who is able to articulate a 
coherent plan as to how he would run the city.  So far, 
Alasania has been unable to do either.  Notwithstanding a 
difficult broadcast media environment and significant 
financial disadvantage, Alasania has not focused on the 
low-cost activities he could use to generate support.  He 
spends a large share of his time outside of Georgia.  When in 
Tbilisi, Alasania rarely if ever spends time among the public 
or does any sort of retail level campaigning.  In contrast, 
Ugulava is found in all corners of the city, meeting 
residents, listening to their concerns and explaining his 
plans for improving the city and their lives.  Alasania has 
pushed back the re-launch of his campaign a number of times, 
and has effectively ceded three months of unopposed campaign 
time to Ugulava.  Unfortunately for Alasania, his absence has 
left the public with little understanding of his platform or 
why he is running.  Alasania has hired the American firm 
Aristotle consultants as advisors and plans to begin his 
campaign in earnest shortly.  Alasania's advisors maintain 
that he has plenty of time to take on Ugulava successfully. 
 
Levan and the Money Trail 
 
7.  (C)  Levan Gachechiladze (Protect Georgia Movement) has 
apparently not made up his mind as to what he intends to do 
regarding the May 2010 elections.  MP Paata Davitaia (We 
Ourselves), with whom Gachechiladze had a good relationship, 
told us that Gachechiladze also thought that a pro-Russia 
policy swing could potentially be a good idea for the 
non-parliamentary opposition.  Davitaia expressed his disgust 
Qnon-parliamentary opposition.  Davitaia expressed his disgust 
with Gachechiladze's willingness to embrace Noghaideli's 
position.  Davitaia said that others willing to join 
Noghaideli (Conservatives - People's Party) were doing so for 
the modest sum of about USD 50,000.  According to Davitaia 
and other sources, Gachechiladze has been mulling a run for 
mayor as the candidate of the United Opposition. 
Gachechiladze's entry into the race would certainly 
complicate Alasania's floundering bid.  Privately, Alasania's 
team has repeatedly told Poloff that Gachechiladze has 
assured them that he supports Alasania, but would only 
announce his support publicly at a "key moment". 
Nevertheless, Alasania insiders question Gachechiladze's 
commitment, noting that he could be "purchased" at any 
moment, and the Alliance simply does not have the funds nor 
inclination to meet what could be a substantial asking price. 
 
 
Christian Democrat's Candidate Underwhelms 
 
8.  (C)  Former President of the Georgian International Oil 
Corporation (which oversaw the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline 
project in Georgia) Gia Chanturia was officially announced as 
the CDM candidate for mayor on February 12.  Chanturia left 
Georgia amid controversy and allegations of corruption after 
being dismissed from his post by President Saakashvili in 
 
TBILISI 00000222  003 OF 003 
 
 
September 2004.  Since that time Chanturia has lived in Baku, 
and advised the Azeri government and SOCAR on oil and gas 
projects.  He continues to have good ties with government 
officials in Azerbaijan.  Chanturia's initial speech as the 
CDM mayoral candidate was lackluster, and he left the party's 
anniversary party mid-way through the event.  Chanturia 
admitted to an Embassy contact that he had no real interest 
in running for mayor, but had been encouraged by the GoG to 
run.  If he ran, Chanturia was reportedly told that the GoG 
would support an energy project he hopes to develop on the 
Black Sea that involves refining and transit of CNG/LNG. 
(Embassy Note:  Press is already speculating about the "real" 
reasons for Chanturia's return to politics.  End Note.) 
 
9.  (C)  Christian Democratic Leader, Giorgi Targamadze told 
Poloff that Chanturia's technocratic background and his 
ability to fund his own campaign were both appealing to CDM. 
By backing Chanturia, who is running as an independent, 
Targamadze opens himself up to criticism of being a GoG 
stooge.  However, as Targamadze told Poloff, CDM has little 
to no chance of winning the Tbilisi mayoral race and was 
committed to playing to its strengths by focusing on local 
council (Sakrebulo) elections nationwide.  Chanturia appears 
to provide the best of limited options; a self-funded 
candidate who will keep CDM relevant in Tbilisi but whose 
loss would do little to harm Targamadze personally or CDM's 
brand.  By backing Chanturia, CDM can focus on down ticket 
races; maintain its support (roughly 10 percent) in Tbilisi; 
and give its organization a good electoral test run. 
Whatever Chanturia's merits, Targamadze clearly views the 
electoral utility of running Chanturia as worth the risk. 
BASS

Wikileaks

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: