2007-09-11 12:50:00
Embassy Tbilisi
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DE RUEHSI #2291/01 2541250
R 111250Z SEP 07





E.O. 12958: N/A






E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.

2. (SBU) Summary: Following a series of scandals
involving the misuse of public funds by newly elected
local officials, the Georgian Parliament recently passed
two laws that strengthen the powers of regional Governors,
who are appointed by the President, to exercise
"state supervision" and ensure compliance of local
self-government bodies with the "interests, goals and
policy" of the state. Increasing the authority of the
Governors may help with the formulation and
subsequent implementation of economic development of
Georgia's undeveloped regions. However, this will need
to be done carefully as some may claim that these new
powers are counter to the goal of decentralizing power
from federal to local structures. This cable
contains a brief summary of the current regional
Governors of Georgia, whose personalities - some of
which tend toward that of a local prince,
rather than an institutional manager of local
self-governance - may prove decisive in the
development of Georgia's regions. End Summary.

Promising steps towards local self-government

3. (U) The ratification of the European Charter on Local
Self-governance and subsequent adoption of the Law on Local
Self-governance by the Georgian parliament in 2005 created
the political and legal environment required for the
development of full-fledged self-government institutions.
The new legislation envisaged the termination of the
existing subordination of local bodies to the central
authorities, primarily through ensuring the separation
of powers of state and local governments, bolstering
the independence of local government bodies, and encouraging
the participation of citizens in the exercise of
self-governance. This marked an entirely new approach
to local governance in the top-down world of the former
Soviet Union. The legislation and subsequent local
elections in 2006 were assessed by experts as the most
promising advance towards local self-governance in
Georgian history.

Links to the non-transparent past

4. (U) According to the new legislation, the main entities
of local self-government are, "a settlement (a self-governing

city) or an amalgamation of settlements (municipality),
which have local self-government representative and
executive bodies." The law does not provide for the
institution of the PresidentQs Representative in the
regions or a Regional Governor, though it stipulates
state supervision over local self-government bodies, which
has been in practice since the Shevardnadze era. At that
time, the rationale for the state supervision by the
President's Representative was the difficult period
of transition towards democracy, which necessitated
presence of a "strong presidential hand" in the regions.
Shevardnadze also established a Governor's Special Fund
to "implement targeted programs of regional development."
Lacking transparency, this fund has been invalidated
by the current government, though the institution of the
Representative is being retained. Currently, Georgia
has nine regions with respective entities of locally
elected governments. However, in addition, each region
is also governed by the superimposed authority of
the President's Representative.

Links to the unclear future

5. (U) In order to address the existing legislative
uncertainties surrounding the PresidentQs Representative,
Georgian Parliament recently adopted two laws: Amendments
to the Law on Structure, Authority and the Rule of Activity
of the Government of Georgia and Law on State Supervision
over the Activities of Local Self-government
Bodies. The laws provide for the institution of President's
Representative/Governor who "shall be the representative
of the President and the Government of Georgia in
territorial units". As stipulated by the legislation,
the Governor, appointed and dismissed by the President,
shall control implementation of the laws of Georgia in
territorial units, implement regional programs of
social-economic development, provide recommendations on
the suspension or termination of locals council activities,
under circumstances threatening to the sovereignty of

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the country, or constitutional authority of state
bodies. Most importantly, Governors shall exercise
"state supervision" to ensure "the legality and
expediency of the activities of local self-government
bodies and officials", and "legal supervision"
to ensure "compliance of the normative acts issued
by local self-government bodies and officials with
Georgian legislation." Beyond coordinating regional
interests, goals and policy with those determined by
the federal state, Governors shall also administer state
budget resources in accordance "with public interests."

6. (U) Critics of the legislation fear that it will bestow
too much authority to regional governors, who are not
popularly elected and report directly to the president.
Furthermore, opponents believe the proposed laws will
provide little oversight of the regional administrators
from the federal government, and even fewer checks and
balances from the local government institutions. Supporters
contend that the locally elected officials, most of whom
grew up and prospered in the era of rampant corruption of the
Shevardnadze period, need additional oversight in order
to ensure that federal funds given to local authorities
are spent on constituent needs. Indeed, the ruling party
forced a group of local officials to resign after they
spent most of the local funds from the poor area of
Kutaisi on new Mercedes vehicles and the refurbishment of
their offices.

Personalities Gallery

7. (SBU) At present, the governors who will be given the
above leverages to exercise the presidential power in the
regions are the following:

Giorgi Natsvlishvili - Kakheti region

Kakheti - a wine region of Georgia - comprises eight
districts with the total population of approximately 407,182.
Kakheti borders on Azerbaijan and North Caucasus and
provides shelter to a sizable community of refugees from
Chechnya. Gia Natsvlishvili was appointed Governor of Kakheti
region on November 27, 2006.

Natsvlishvili was born on July 4, 1963, in Tbilisi.
In 1985, he graduated from the Technical University of
Georgia faculty of hydro-technical facilities. Natsvlishvili
also graduated from the secondary faculty with a major in
English technical translation. In 1997, he was awarded
a PhD in technical science, and in 2003 the rank
of Doctor. He is a member of the International Association
of Hydraulic Specialists, author of 30 scientific papers, a
member of the International Association of American
Scientists "Sigma XI". From 1988 to 2003, Natsvlishvili
headed various businesses.

From 1987, Natsvlishvili became involved in the National
Liberation Movement and was one of the founders of the
Christian-Democratic Union of Georgia. In 1992, he took
part in the military actions in Abkhazia and is a veteran of
the Abkhazian war. He participated actively in the
foundation of the National Movement and was its Executive
Secretary until 2004. In 2004, Natsvlishvili became member

of the Tbilisi Sakrebulo, and was a Member of Georgian
Parliament from April 22, 2004, as the Deputy Chairman of
the Parliamentary Committee on Branch Economy and Economic

According to a local NGO source, the majority of Kakheti
residents think very highly of Natsvlishvili as a young
and energetic leader, and he has a positive reputation
among civil society actors in Kakheti.

Vasil Maghlaperidze - Mtskheta- Mtianeti

Mtskheta- Mtianeti is rich in hydro-resources and
forest parks, and has good prospects for livestock, grain
harvesting and beer production. The region of Georgia's
ancient capital Mtskheta also has a significant
potential for tourism development. It comprises
five districts with the total population of
approximately 125,443. Vasil Maglaperidze was
appointed Governor of Mtskheta- Mtianeti on March 1, 2005.

Vasil Maglaperidze was born in Tbilisi, on September 5, 1958.
In 1980, he graduated from the Tbilisi State University

TBILISI 00002291 003 OF 006

faculty of philology. In 1989, Maglaperidze was awarded a
PhD in philology. From 1988, he worked as a researcher
at the Tbilisi State University department of
ancient Georgian literature, and from 1984 to 1999
was a teacher of Georgian language and literature at a
secondary school in Tbilisi. In 1999, and again in
2004, Maglaperidze was elected as a member of Parliament.
In 2004, he was elected Chairman of the Georgian
ParliamentQs temporary Commission on restoration of
territorial integrity of Georgia.

Maglaperidze is generally perceived as an obedient and
decent public servant who will neither do any damage, nor
be proactive to achieve independent results.

Mikheil Kareli - Shida Kartli

Shida Kartli has a strong potential for fruit and vegetable
processing industry development. The region actually
encompasses the conflict zone in South Ossetia and comprises
four districts under Georgian jurisdiction, with a total
population of approximately 314,039. Mikheil Kareli was
appointed Governor of Shida Kartli in January 2004.

Kareli was born on September 3, 1975, in the city of
Gori. He graduated from the Gori State Economic
Institute's economic records faculty with a major in
accounting and economic analysis. He also graduated
from the Tbilisi State University faculty of law,
majoring in jurisprudence, and was awarded the
qualification of a lawyer. Kareli worked from 1998
to 2001 as the Sakrebulo Chairman of the Tkviavi
community of Gori district. Between 2002 and 2003,
he was the Board Chairman of the NGO "Union of Fighting
Against Corruption". From 2003 to 2004, Kareli was the
executive secretary of the Gori branch of the United
National Movement.

Kareli, said to be protigi of the former Minister of
Defense Irakli Okruashvili, is also known for his
autocratic ways of management. Some believe he rules as
a prince of a fiefdom, rather than as a high executive.
However, his position, which is owed to an earlier promotion
by Okruashvili, has become quite precarious recently.

Zurab Melikishvili - Kvemo Kartli

Kvemo Kartli borders Armenia and Azerbaijan and
comprises a major portion of GeorgiaQs ethnic Azeri Muslim
population. The region is rich in arable land and
pastures for livestock breeding. It consists of six districts
with the total population of approximately 497,530.
Zurab Melikishvili was appointed Governor of Kvemo Kartli
in December 2004.

Melikishvili was born on February 15, 1971, in Tbilisi.
In 1993, Melikishvili graduated from the Javakhishvili
Tbilisi State University faculty of chemistry, and later
in 1997 from the faculty of jurisprudence of the
Nutsubidze Institute "Ritorika". Between 1993 and
1996, Melikishvili worked as the chairman of the
Georgian International Red Cross Society organization
in Vake district; vice-president of the youth organization
of the IRCS. From 1999 to 2000, he served as an
invited specialist at the Georgian Parliament. Between
2000 and 2001, Melikishvili worked at the Ministry of
Justice of Georgia, Head of the Minister's office.
Melikishvili was one of the founders of National
Movement, as a coordinator of organizational issues.
From December 2003 to January 2004, Melikishvili was
Governor of Kvemo Kartli. In early 2004, he was
appointed First Deputy Head of the PresidentQs Office,
and served later that year as the State Minister on Regional

Melikishvili, though a good "apparatchik", makes very
rare public appearances and his role in the region is
nearly invisible.

Aaki Bobokhidze -Imereti

Imereti is rich in coal, manganese, limestone, mineral
waters and hydro resources. The region of Georgia's
second largest city of Kutaisi comprises eleven districts
with the total population of approximately 699,666.
Akaki Bobokhidze was appointed Governor of Imereti in

TBILISI 00002291 004 OF 006

November 2006.

Bobokhidze was born on September 14, 1964, in the village
Gord, Khoni district. In 1986, he graduated from the
Tbilisi Javakhishvili State University faculty of mechanics
and mathematics. From 1986 to 1990, Bobokhidze worked at
the Kutaisi Polytechnics Institute. In 1990,
Bobokhidze became a member of the Supreme Council
of Georgia, and later in 1992, a member of the State Council
of Georgia. From 1992 to 1995, he served in the Georgian
Parliament. Between 1998 and 2001, Bobokhidze was the
Ombudsman's Trustee on Political Issues. From 2001
to 2004, Bobokhidze served a second term in Parliament.
In 2005, he was appointed Governor of Imereti. One year
later, he resigned from the post to become Head of the
National Guard Department. On November 10, 2006, he was
re-appointed Governor of Imereti.

At various times, Bobokhidze was a member of both the
Republican Party and People's Party, finally joining
the National Movement later in his career. His
resignation from the GovernorQs position stemmed from a
scandal involving BobokhidzeQs assault of a
journalist following a television interview. The
episode further damaged Bobokhidze's public reputation,
which was already held in low esteem due to endeavors
seen as opportunistic and self-serving.

Giorgi Khachidze - Samtskhe- Javakheti
Samtskhe-Javakheti borders Turkey and Armenia and
comprises the largest portion of GeorgiaQs ethnic
Armenians. The region has a strong potential for
meat and dairy-products development. It consists
of six districts with the total population of
approximately 207,598. Giorgi Khachidze was appointed
governor of Samtskhe-Javakheti in March 2005.

Khachidze was born on February 9, 1974. In 1997,
Khachidze graduated from the Tbilisi State University,
majoring in biology and journalism. Between 1994 and 2000,
he worked for state-run Channels I and II on
Georgian Television, as well as for the television
companies "Ibervizia", "Rustavi-2", "202". During
this time, Khachidze also worked in the press-service
of the Ministry of Defense, as well as for
radio station "105", radio "Rezonansi", and
newspaper "Rezonansi". In November 2002, he founded
the Khashuri office of the "United Democrats"
party. From November 2003 to March 2004, he was
the Deputy Gamgebeli of Khashuri rayon. From March
to October, 2004, he was a Member of Georgian
Parliament, elected through National Movement
party lists. From October, 2004 to March, 2005 he
was appointed Governor in Mtskheta-Mtianeti region.

Khachidze was also a relatively popular pop-singer
and managed to transfer his personable qualities to
his managerial work as well. Khachidze is quite liked
by the local NGO community, which stresses his
regular work with civil society organizations and
his focus on concrete achievements. Khachidze's
strongest asset is said to be his ability to
work with people, despite their religion or ethnicity.

Zaza Gorozia - Samegrelo and Upper Svaneti

Samegrelo and Upper Svaneti border on the conflict
zone in Abkhazia, and is presently home to the largest
share of Georgia's IDPs from Abkhazia. The region is
rich in hydro-resources, non-ferrous metals,
and arable land for citrus cultivation. It
comprises eight districts, including the industrial
port town of Poti, with the total population of
approximately 466,100. Zaza Gorozia was appointed
Governor of SamegreloQZemo Svaneti in July 2005.

Gorozia was born in Martvili district, Samegrelo on
February 11, 1975. In 1999, he graduated from the
Medical Academy of Tbilisi, and later continued
post-graduate studies with the major in healthcare
management. From 2000 to 2001, Gorozia worked
as an intern at the healthcare department of the
Ministry of Justice of Georgia. In 2003, Gorozia
served on the Central Elections Commission. From
2003 to 2005, he was appointed as Deputy, and later
promoted as Head of the Tbilisi City HallQs Healthcare
and Social Services. He is currently member of

TBILISI 00002291 005 OF 006

the United National Movement.

Gorozia is seen by many not only as a good party
functionary, but also as a good manager enthusiastic
about local projects and capable of delivering results.
At the same time, Gorozia still has to overcome
another existing perception which holds him as a "cocksure"
young guy, "having his fling" while he is still the
ruler of Samegrelo region.

Mikheil Svimonoshvili - Guria

Guria holds strong potential for agricultural
development of tea, citrus, hazel nuts, and mineral water.
The region comprises three districts with the total
population of approximately 143,357. Mikheil
Svimonishvili was appointed Governor of Guria in November


Svimonishvili was born on April 7, 1976, in Tbilisi.
In 1993, Svimonishvili attended technical college of
the German city of Bruchsal, majoring in trade economy,
and later pursued post-graduate studies at the Ivane
Javakhishvili State University of Tbilisi, with
the major in business-information technology. Between
1997 and 1999, he studied in Switzerland at the economic
faculty of the Zurich University. In 1998, he took a
one-year qualification improvement course at the Swiss
Banking School. In 1997, together with Swiss
partners, Svimonishvili founded the company "Tskali
Margebeli", Ltd., which produces the mineral water
Nabeghlavi. At the same time, he is a founder of the
Ltd. "Alami" and "Ali Georgian Motors". Until December
2004, he worked as the Head of the Tbilisi City Hall
Service of city planning. On December 17, 2004, he
was appointed the Minister of Agriculture of Georgia.

Svimonishvili is not perceived as a person wholeheartedly
dedicated to the region, but rather as a temporary "fixture"
who was assigned to this position against his will and
who would be looking for the first feasible opportunity
to turn a "new leaf" in his career.

Otar Siradze - Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti
-------------- ---

Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti holds good prospects
for tourism and recreational development. Its rich
mineral water resources holds strong potential for
the bottled water industry . It comprises four districts
with the total population of approximately 50,969.
Otar Siradze was appointed Governor of Racha-Lechkhumi
and Lower Svaneti in March, 2005.

Siradze was born in 1975 in the town of Ambrolauri,
Racha region. In 1997, he graduated from the Humanities
Institute of Georgia with the qualification of the manager
of economic relations. He later continued post-graduate
studies in economics at the State University of Tbilisi.
Between 1995 and 2002, Siradze worked as the Deputy
Director of company Laba, Ltd., and as Assistant Head
of the Office of the Minister of State Property Management.
From 2003 to 2004, he was the Head of the Office of the
Agency of Enterprise Management, a public legal entity.
In 2005, Siradze was appointed the Deputy Head of the
Georgian GovernmentQs Department on Regional Policy.

Siradze is probably the least known Governor of the
regions of Georgia, apparently shunning any public
appearances. Racha-Lechkhumi and Lower Svaneti, one of
the most beautiful parts of Georgia, would benefit
tremendously from having energetic leadership focused on
intensive road development and local tourism/recreation
development projects.


8. (SBU) Comment: Strengthening of the institution of
regional governors Q unelected officials appointed by
and directly subordinate to the president may help with the
development and subsequent implementation of comprehensive
strategies for the economic development of GeorgiaQs
regions. It is also a way to provide oversight over the
fledgling and inexperienced (at least in democracy) local
officials. Based on a review of qualifications, background,
and performance in current and previous positions, there
is some question as to whether the actual incumbents can

TBILISI 00002291 006 OF 006

be expected to perform their mandates effectively.
It will be important that implementation of these laws is
done in a way which allows for the continued
decentralization of federal structures, empowerment of
locally elected officials, and deferral of decisions to
the local level. We will actively encourage such an approach.