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Political dealings according to Wikileaks

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, September 9
Wikileaks published a new cable about Georgia, classified by the former US Ambassador John Tefft on January 6, 2009. According to the information either the EU or the USA were going to try and replace President Saakashvili from his position that spring. The cable sent by the former US Ambassador John Tefft stated that Giorgi Targamadze, leader of the Christian Democratic Movement (CDM) and Levan Vepkhvadze, Parliamentary Deputy Speaker from the CDM, had approached the Resident Country Director of the International Republican Institute (IRI), Dimitri Shashkin, about rumors of upcoming Georgian elections. According to these sources, the elections were to be precipitated by either President-Elect Obama or Ambassador Tefft (on behalf of Obama) demanding President Saakashvili's resignation.

Tefft claimed that Shashkin had assured them the plan couldn't be carried out because as Shashkin said “the CDM was concerned they would be caught flat-footed if snap elections were held”. Tefft’s dispatch also relayed Targamadze’s alternative theories about Saakashvili’s ouster. “The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) would remove Saakashvili and appoint Alasania as President; or the EU Commission headed by Heidi Taglivini will demand that Saakashvili resign or face a Hague tribunal.” Tefft cited Targamadze stressing that “in spite of their apparent absurdity, all theories shared a common theme ending with Saakashvili's ouster.”

“Shashkin, who is in constant contact with all the players in the opposition, says the non-parliamentary opposition is becoming more and more insular and divorced from reality. Targamadze told Shashkin that he had heard the various theories from the New Rights party. Shashkin has not heard this directly nor can he affix blame to any particular party or individual for starting these rumors, but says New Rights, Republicans, and Nino Burjanadze's people are happily pushing them to those who will listen,” said the dispatch.

The cable further reported that the United National Movement (UNM) perhaps had named the Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze as their presidential candidate. As Tefft mentioned in his dispatch, the source of the information, Dimitri Shashkin, had considered the Parliamentary Speaker David Bakradze as “a standard bearer in the next Presidential elections”.

“While many commentators feel the UNM will break up without Saakashvili at the helm Bakradze could emerge as a successor,” Tefft had stated. Citing Shashkin’s words who had emphasized Bakradze’s smartness, independence and success both within and outside the party, the former Ambassador also mentioned the strong support Bakradze had among the UNM.

“Shashkin says he's seen a shift among rank and file UNM MPs who increasingly view Bakradze as a leader. Shashkin also mentioned that President Saakashvili met with Bakradze privately in Qatar right before announcing his recent cabinet shift. Bakradze is a well versed policymaker, but now Saakashvili appears to be seeking his advice on politics as well as policy. If he gains Saakashvili's support and can unify at least a portion of the UNM behind him, Bakradze could be a formidable presidential candidate,” informed the dispatch.

Another candidate, according the same sources, who might have thought about “throwing his hat in the ring”, is Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze. However, Tefft supposed that “as it becomes clear to all that Saakashvili will serve out his full term, candidates from the UNM will likely remain mum on any future intentions.”

“The US would do everything to ensure the creation of a healthy election environment in Georgia, while it would be up to the Georgian citizens to elect a new President of the country,” said John Bass, the current US Ambassador to Georgia on September 8, 2011, unwilling to comment on the Wikileaks materials.

Opposition member Kakha Kukava, leader of Free Georgia, “confirmed” the rumors about Davit Bakradze’s candidacy for the Presidential elections in 2013. “It is the wish of law enforcement bodies, and is to their advantage,” Kukava said, explaining that if Bakradze became President the real authority would be in the Ministry of Internal Affair’s hands. Giorgi Akhvlediani, CDM MP, speculates that Davit Bakradze might really have ambitions for the Presidency but Akhvlediani doubts his chances. Talking of Bakradze’s popularity among the public, Akhvlediani stressed that the Parliamentary Chairperson doesn’t have a personal “support team” among MPs.

“If Wikileaks published information it doesn’t mean that we have to immediately start thinking of the Presidential candidate,” said the majority Chairman of Committee on European Integration, Davit Darchiashvili, speaking to The Messenger. He stressed that they would choose someone from a team of worthy persons in due time.

Pikria Chikhradze from New Rights didn’t find Wikileaks materials very realistic “because it’s based on pirated materials and it’s hard to guess their intentions” but emphasized that “2009 was a year of emotional protest for the Georgian political spectrum, with the possibility of holding early Presidential elections.” Referring to the upcoming Parliamentary elections in 2012, Chikhradze expressed hope that it would become a decisive year for Georgia and will clarify the situation for presidential elections planned for 2013.