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Cablegate: Preliminary Report of Odihr Limited Election

VZCZCXYZ0045
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVB #1025 3251144
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211144Z NOV 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8350
INFO RUCNOSC/ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY COOPERATION IN EUROPE
RUEHVJ/AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO 0285

UNCLAS ZAGREB 001025

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR EUR/SCE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV HR OSCE POLITICAL PARTIES ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: PRELIMINARY REPORT OF ODIHR LIMITED ELECTION
OBSERVATION MISSION TO CROATIA

REF: ZAGREB 1024

1. SUMMARY: The OSCE/ODIHR's Limited Election Observation
Mission (LEOM) to Croatia released its interim report on
November 20. All indicators point toward free and fair
elections conducted in line with the established legal
framework, but the report does draw particular attention to
the new Law on Voter Lists and diaspora voting (reftel
provides a detailed discussion of issues surrounding the
diaspora vote). On 31 October 2007, for the upcoming
parliamentary elections. The 20 member team, which began
work in Croatia on October 31, is to assess the electoral
process focusing on the election campaign, the legislative
framework and its implementation, the media situation, the
work of the election administration and the resolution of
election-related disputes. A final report is due
approximately 2 months after the completion of elections.
END SUMMARY.

-----------------------
The Mission At a Glance
-----------------------

2. The LEOM includes 10 international staff based in Zagreb,
along with 10 long-term observers deployed to Split, Rijeka,
Osijek, Zadar and Sisak. The mission does not intend to
carry out a systematic or comprehensive observation on
elections day, but the observers will visit several polling
stations across the country to follow procedures. In
addition to their work on elections day, the LEOM has
established regular contact with the GOC, the new permanent
State Election Commission and lower-level election
committees, as well as political parties, NGOs, academics and
media outlets. On 19 November, the LEOM also visited the
Croatian embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, to discuss
preparations for voting by the Croatian diaspora.

-----------------------------------
Law on Voter Lists and the Diaspora
-----------------------------------

3. The LEOM's preliminary report indicates the Croatian
election campaign season is progressing with few issues of
note. Electronic and print media are generally covering the
campaign in line with established legal frameworks. Croatia
looks to be set to hold free and fair elections on 25
November.

4. The LEOM has highlighted the issue of voter lists in both
their preliminary report and during a meeting with the
diplomatic community on 8 November. Since the 2003
elections, Croatia has worked to alleviate issues associated
with its complex voter registration procedures. The 2007 Law
on Voter Lists computerized the voter registration system.
This allows better coordination and cross-checking of lists,
and facilitates corrections when an error is discovered.
Recent statutory amendments require voters to request a
change in polling station no less than 14 days prior to the
election. This regulation becomes especially relevant in the
discussion of diaspora voters. Diaspora voter lists are
compiled based on data acquired at the time of the person's
last contact with Croatian officials. Many voters have since
moved or have taken up temporary residence in another city or
country. Of the 286,000 voters registered in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, it is estimated that as many as 110,000
may actually be working in Germany. If these voters do not
pre-register their temporary residence before the elections,
they may arrive at one of the Consulates in Germany and find
they are unable to vote. Their name will remain on the list
back in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

5. Polling stations for the diaspora have also sparked some
debate. A significant increase in the number of polling
stations in Bosnia-Herzegovina (an area at the heart of
debates about diaspora voting) has been portrayed as strategy
of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) to increase the
number of diaspora representatives, who historically vote
with the HDZ. As noted reftel, the HDZ is actively trying to
boost diaspora voter turnout, and the number of polling
stations in Bosnia-Hercegovina is set to increase from 30 in
the 2003 elections, to 124 during this year's elections. The
LEOM mission points out, howevver that even with the increase
the number of registered voters in Bosnia-Hercegovina (where
voter turnout is historically far lower than in Croatia) per
polling station remains over 2,000. In Croatia the average
is 524 people per polling station.
BRADTKE

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