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Cablegate: Cabinet Passes Election Law to Parliament Without

VZCZCXRO3928
OO RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #0243/01 0291300
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 291300Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2592
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 000243

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CG CJTF-82, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: CABINET PASSES ELECTION LAW TO PARLIAMENT WITHOUT
PARTY PROVISIONS

REF: KABUL 130

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) The draft election law forwarded by the Cabinet to
the Parliament on January 23 is essentially the same as the
existing election law, retaining the single nontransferable
voting (SNTV) system used in the 2005 parliamentary elections
and incorporating no element of proportional representation
(PR) favored by some parliamentary leaders, including Speaker
Qanooni. It also prohibits candidates from running in two
constituencies at the same time, a provision which would
appear to prevent Qanooni from seeking a parliamentary seat
and the presidency simultaneously if the elections are
consolidated. The draft law is the first bid in the
presidential-parliamentary negotiations that could lead to a
consolidated election calendar in exchange for an element of
proportional representation. Post continues to press for
timely resolution of these issues within the scope of the
Constitution.

Law Arrives at Parliament Without Party Provisions
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) After months of internal deliberation, the Cabinet
forwarded to the Parliament on January 23 the government's
draft of the amended election law. Parliamentary leaders
have said the law is a top legislative priority in its
current term, which began on January 21. The draft law is
little changed from the existing law used in the 2004/5
elections. It retains the single nontransferable voting
(SNTV) system and incorporates no element of proportional
representation (PR) favored by some parliamentary leaders,
including Speaker Yunus Qanooni. The draft law does not
explicitly permit candidates to list their party affiliation
on the ballot, but neither is it forbidden as in the existing
law.

3. (SBU) The draft law stipulates that no individual can run
in more than one electoral constituency in the same election.
While the wording is ambiguous, this could prevent Qanooni
from running for a Parliamentary seat and the Presidency
simultaneously if the elections are consolidated. No
candidates for any office can hold foreign citizenship, which
in theory would exclude the several current MPs who are
dual-nationals. Enforcement would be difficult.

Smaller Districts, Local Councils, Other Provisions
--------------------------------------------- ------

4. (SBU) The draft law, unlike the existing law, requires
large provinces entitled to ten or more parliamentary seats
on the basis of population to be sub-divided into smaller
districts. (This includes at least Kabul, Nangarhar, Ghazni,
Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-e Sharif). Elections experts
insist that smaller constituencies increase the
representativeness of the elections, but the process of
electoral district delineation can be controversial and
burdensome. The draft law assigns this task to a commission
comprised of representatives of the Independent Election
Commission, the Central Statistical Office, and the
Independent Directorate for Local Governance.

5. (SBU) Like the existing election law, the draft law
includes provisions for the election of District and Village
Councils, as well as Municipal Councils and Mayors, but it
remains to be seen whether the government will implement
these provisions in the 2009/10 election cycle. (Mayors are
the only elected executives apart from the President in the
Afghan constitutional structure. Like presidential
elections, mayoral elections require the winner to receive
over 50 percent of the vote, often necessitating a run-off,
with implications for the election calendar.)

6. (SBU) The draft law explicitly calls for a voter list,
which requires a voter registration. The law raises the

KABUL 00000243 002 OF 002


number of signatures required for candidates to stand for
election (10,000 for President, 1,500 for Wolesi Jirga,
200-600 for Provincial Council depending on population). It
seems to require disclosure of financial assets, but the
language is incomplete and vague (Article 46: "Provision of
information in relation to the moveable and non-moveable
assets."). The draft law allows the IEC to suspend polling
"if security or other unpredictable events or situations make
the holding of an election impossible, or seriously threaten
the legitimacy of an election."

Commission Prepares for Calendar Discussion
-------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The government continues to favor the consolidation
of the elections in the fall of 2009, as reported reftel and
in subsequent discussions with the IEC. Qanooni insists that
he favors "on time" elections, making it clear that means
following the cycle used in the last elections. This would
mean presidential elections in 2009 and parliamentary in
2010. (It is not clear whether Qanooni would object to
holding Presidential elections in the fall rather than the
spring.)

8. (SBU) While the election system is determined by law, the
election calendar is determined by the constitution, although
this is subject to interpretation, which provides a little
leeway. If there is a challenge to efforts to consolidate
the calendar, resolution of the issue could trigger a
constitutional convention which would be impossible to
control. The informal commission (which will include
Qanooni) called by President Karzai to establish a calendar
consistent with the constitution has not yet met. The IEC
chairman is out of the country for family reasons, and the
parliament is tied down with elections for Parliamentary
leadership positions. The calendar will not be set before
the February meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring
Board (JCMB) in Tokyo.

A Grand Bargain Needed on the Calendar and Law
--------------------------------------------- -

9. (SBU) The draft election law that emerged from the Cabinet
lays out Karzai's position on how the elections should be
conducted. There will be tough negotiations with Qanooni
over the law, and we expect trade-offs on the issue of the
law and the calendar. Most observers believe that Qanooni
and the opposition he leads will accept a consolidated
election calendar in exchange for an element of proportional
representation introduced into the parliamentary elections.
Post continues to press for timely resolution of these issues
within the scope of the Constitution.
WOOD

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