2007-12-14 12:22:00
Embassy Tbilisi
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R 141222Z DEC 07




E.O. 12958: N/A





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: On December 11, the Central Election
Commission (CEC) released the final list of the seven
registered candidates for the January 5 pre-term
presidential elections. Several candidates, however,
have been actively campaigning for as long as a week,
meeting daily with Tbilisi residents and travelling to
the regions to gain votes. Most campaign promises
address pressing social issues but few candidates have
laid out concrete plans on how to implement their
programs. The ordinary voter may find it difficult
to differentiate between each party's platforms, but
there are differences among the campaign strategies.
Saakashvili's campaign strategy, with the strongest
political machine behind it, has been the most effective
at communicating the National Movement platform and
emphasizing past party successes. On the other hand,
United National Council of opposition (UNC) candidate
Levan Gachechiladze's campaign has primarily focused on
attacking the National Movement instead of developing a
platform of constructive ideas that appeal widely to the
Georgian people. End Summary.

2.(U) A snap-shot of Mikheil Saakashvili
(National Movement),Levan Gachechiladze (United
National Council of opposition),Davit Gamkrelidze
(New Rightists),Shalva Natelashvili (Labor Party),and
Gia Maisahvili's (Party for Future) campaigns are outlined
below. Badri Patarkatsishvili and Irina Sarishvili
(Party of Hope) have not launched their campaigns yet.

Mikheil Saakashvili, National Movement

3. (SBU) Mikheil Saakashvili has focused on the number
five, his assigned number as a candidate, which he notes is an
"excellentQ grade in Georgian schools and the date of
the election falling on the fifth of January. Saakashvili's
campaign is displaying the number 5 against a red-and-white
background, evoking the Georgian flag which was established
by the National Movement after the Rose Revolution. To
bring his point home, Saakashvili has even taken to wearing
a red turtleneck during his campaign appearances.

4.(SBU) Saakashvili's latest campaign slogan is
"Georgia without poverty." In recent public

appearances, Saakashvili has stressed that,
if elected, poverty will be eradicated throughout
Georgia. In one speech, Saakashvili said
"I want to get the votes of the people who
live in the most dire conditions. I want to
represent the most vulnerable." This laconic
slogan is being reinforced by numerous new government
initiatives which the government claims were in the works
before the announcement of the pre-term presidential
elections, although there were not budgetary allocations
for them at the time the election was called.
These social programs are designed to improve the
social conditions of pensioners, teachers, internally
displaced people (IDPs),and small business owners.
Saakashvili's response to charges he should have
begun these social programs before the election (or even
before the November protests) has been to point
out that the government was busy building roads,
providing a steady supply of electricity, and
fighting criminals and corruption. He defended his
timing by saying "jobs cannot be created without
building a state." Saakashvili's public speeches
are often attended by prominent members of government
(and members of his party) such as the Mayor of Tbilisi
and the Minister of Refugees, whose presence lends
credibility to his campaign promises. Though the
government officials can legally participate in
Saakashvili's campaign events, the opposition has
strongly objected to their participation as bad form.

5. (SBU) Saakashvili's new focus on poverty also resonates with prior
campaign slogans---"Georgia without Shevardnadze," "Georgia without
Abashidze," "Georgia without power shortages," and "Georgia without
criminals.Q Saakashvili has effectively used these slogans to remind
the voter of the government's successes. Saakashvili often uses
schools, sports grounds, and industrial facilities as the venues for
his widely televised public appearances, where he emphasizes school
renovations, new soccer fields, and the conclusion of the agreement on
the new Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku railway project Q some of the
most visible Qsuccess storiesQ of his administration. These venues
often are staged with large television screens and large crowds.

6. (SBU) One of the strongest aspects of Saakashvili's campaign is his
outreach to Georgia's ethnic minorities. On the day of the UNM party
congress, Saakashvili said "If there is a need, I will

be Armenian; if there is a need, I will be Azeri; if there is a need I
will be Ossetian." This week Saakashvili addressed huge crowds of
supporters in the Azeri-populated towns of Kvemo Kartli in Azeri,
Georgian, and Russian.
This aspect of SaakashviliQs campaign contrasts
with those of opposition candidates, who so far,
have reached out more to Georgian Orthodox believers.

Levan Gachechiladze, United National Council of Opposition (UNC)
-------------- --------------

7. (U) Levan Gachechiladze, presidential candidate for the United
National Council of Opposition (UNC),is campaigning under the CEC-
allotted number one -- which he says was "given to him by God, as a
sign of victory." Gachechiladze's campaign symbol is a white
tie, and white -- --"the color of purity" -- is the "colorQ of his

8. (U) Gachechiladze's campaigning under the slogan "Georgia in the
First Place" -- an allusion to traditional Georgian values, and in
direct opposition to Saakashvili's Qcosmopolitanism.Q Gachechiladze,
permanently flanked by leaders of the nine parties which form the UNC,
has focused his campaign in Tbilisi's "working class" districts
including Isani, Samgori, Varketili and others, even though he is a
majoritarian MP from the elite Vake district.

9. (SBU) Gachechiladze's public speeches are often brusque and he uses
harsh language during campaign events, even resorting to cursing when
speaking about Saakashvili. Gachechiladze has also been antagonistic
toward media: even when asked general questions, he responds
condescendingly to journalists. Gachechiladze also has had trouble
articulating his position on various issues during his campaign.
GachechiladzeQs fellow opposition leaders regularly threaten that if
QSaakashvili dares to rig the elections," they, along with other
opposition candidates will "stand together on January 6 to protect the
Georgian people's votes."

10. (U) One of Gachechiladze's central messages to Tbilisi
residents is that Georgia should no longer be the country of
cheap workers and cheap products, but should become "a base
for providing valuable products." He has also promised
"a big amnesty" for inmates unjustly imprisoned. Gachechiladze
has visited the wine-producing Kakheti region, emphasizing
his business experience in wine-making and rapport
with Kakheti farmers.

David Gamkrelidze -- New Rightists leader

11. (SBU) Well-groomed and well-spoken, David Gamkrelidze contrasts
with "less polished" Gachechiladze, and, as he points out himself, his
"style is very different." However, Gamkrelidze's is not above
aggressively attacking Saakashvili. Gamkrelidze's campaign is not
marked by any particular symbolism, and in his current campaign
speeches he has avoided any reference to the main symbol of his
presidential platform -- the church. However, the theme of the
Georgian Orthodox Church is almost always present, and Gamkrelidze is
often shown on TV within various church settings. (GamkrelidzeQs
recent devoutness may raise an eyebrow of those who remember or know
about his student activities within the soviet Komsomol structure)

12. (U) The more mundane issues of Gamkrelidze's campaign are improving
the business environment and human rights. Both in Tbilisi and in the
regions, Gamkrelidze stresses that if elected, he will liberate
Georgian business from state interference, reduce taxes, and create
barriers to low-quality imported goods in order to boost domestic
production. Earlier, Gamkrelidze had underscored the inviolability of
private property, but now his campaign is focused on fundamental human
rights and freedoms. While visiting Irakli Batiashvili -- leader of the
opposition movement Go Ahead Georgia imprisoned last year for giving
intellectual support to a rebel local warlord in the Kodori Gorge --
Gamkrelidze made the point that Georgia does have prisoners of

13. (U) As a medical doctor by background, Gamkrelidze is especially
campaigning with medical professionals and researchers. He has also
reached out to narrower segments of society, including the Society of
the Blind, offering an exemption of the land tax for members.

Shalva Natelashvili Q Labor Party leader

14. (U) Shalva NatelashviliQs campaign, focused primarily in Tbilisi,
and usually presented against the background of red-and-blue Labor
flags, is built on three platforms: the assertion that Saakashvili is
a QterroristQ and QrobberQ of the Georgian peopleQs assets;
Natelashvili, as a victim of SaakashviliQs regime; and extensive
socialist promises to the Georgian people. Recently, Natelashvili in
his campaign speeches has promised to provide free education, free
medical service, exemption from electricity and natural gas bills, and
to return bank deposits lost during the dissolution of the Soviet

Union. Natelashvili claims the financial burden of these initiatives
will be carried by Georgian businesses, which in turn will receive
significant tax privileges. The impression is that the Labor leader is
competing against an unsubstantiated but widely circulated rumor that
business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili intends to pay the utility bills
for all Georgians.

Gia Maisashvili Q the Party of the Future

15. (U) Gia Maisashvili's campaign is the most modest so far. Limited
to door-to-door campaigning and small meetings with students and
academia, Maisashvili is promoting a knowledge-based society built on
liberal values. When asked about the main feature of MaisashviliQs
campaign, one of his supporters, highlighted Qkindness.Q


16. (SBU) The sense of the Georgian people is that Saakashvili's
promises of social reform will disappear after the elections but the
opposition candidates have offered few realistic alternatives to the
voter. One essential feature uniting all of the candidate's platforms
and campaign efforts is an uncertainty about the outcome. While
Saakashvili's camp believes his victory is guaranteed, the opposition
is similarly convinced of their ability to win enough votes in the
first round to force a second round election (if the election is free
and fair). The opposition has claimed a first round win by Saakashvili
will likely have been orchestrated by the government. Without accurate
polling, it is unclear how the election will go, but campaigning
continues in an effort to swing the large group of undecided voters.