Cablegate: Electoral Law May Not Be Enacted Until April

DE RUEHKH #0025/01 0080638
P 080638Z JAN 08





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The draft electoral law for 2009 national and
state elections is still being debated in the National
Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC). Although the current
session of the National Assembly has been extended through 16
January, the Assembly will be tied up with other business and will
likely not discuss the ratification of the electoral law if
presented with it in early January. This means that the draft law
will be open for discussion in the Assembly in April 2008 at the
earliest, and a newly formed National Electoral Commission (NEC) may
only have 10 or 11 months to plan and execute elections by the
CPA-mandated deadline. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On 27 December, Abdallah Idris, a Yale Law School graduate
and current co-chair of the NCRC, advised poloff of new developments
regarding the Sudanese electoral law. [COMMENT: Idris, a moderate
member of the NCP, has been an influential guiding force on
electoral law development. During the recent SPLM-NCP impasse,
Idris encouraged SPLM members on the NCRC to remain engaged in the
drafting of the law, signaling his commitment to reaching party
consensus on the law. END COMMENT.] The NCRC, created per the CPA
and composed of 60 members, more than 80 percent of which are SPLM
and NCP party affiliates, is tasked with preparing draft laws for
the implementation of the CPA and the process of democratization in
Sudan. Although normal NCRC procedure calls for subcommittees to
first draft bills and then present them to political parties for
input, parties (even those not represented on the NCRC - such as
Umma and the PCP) were asked by the NCRC to first present their
views because the electoral law is such a sensitive piece of
legislation. Although the NCRC has significantly delayed the
process, Idris stated, all of the political parties approached
submitted detailed recommendations for the draft bill. Idris claims
that this process, which started seven months ago, has created a
positive consultative process between the political parties and the
NCRC. By drafting the law in this fashion, the NCRC hopes to gain
buy-in and create national consensus on a final draft, so that it
will be difficult for the National Assembly to vote against its

3. (U) Currently, the NCRC is now working on its sixth draft of the
law. Idris alleged that there is now consensus among parties on the
law except for the percentages of the mixed system. The NCP, he
stated, is pushing for a system whereby a majority (60 percent) of
the voting would be done by direct representation (also known as
"first past the post"), a minority (15 percent) would be by
proportional representation, and 25 percent of seats would be
reserved for women. The weakness of such a system, noted Idris, is
that it favors election of the bigger parties (NCP and SPLM) rather
than a mix of parties. He said smaller parties are supporting the
implementation of a mixed system whereby 50 percent of the vote is
by direct representation and 50 percent is by proportional
representation (to include at least 25 percent of seats which will
be filled by women.) Although the SPLM originally supported the
proposal of the first system, Idris stated that the second option is
gaining momentum within the SPLM and that the party membership is
changing its position.

4.(U) When the NCRC agrees on a final draft of the electoral bill,
it will call a press conference to make the news public. "Although
people in power are usually not keen on elections", he said, the
NCRC is pushing the parties toward immediate consensus for
completion of a final draft. He estimated that the bill should be
released to the National Assembly in early January.

5.(U) As for the naming of a National Electoral Commission (NEC),
Idris said that the Presidency has been asked to "float names" as to
who he may appoint to the nine-person commission. Although the NEC
is to be established upon passage of the electoral law, Idris
explained that "time is of the essence" and that the Presidency must
give thought to the Commission in advance of the law. Legally,
President Al-Bashir is to appoint commission members with the
consent of First Vice-President Salva Kiir Mayardit. NEC members
must then be approved in the National Assembly by a two-thirds

6. (U) On 31 December, poloff met with Manoah Aligo Donga, Chairman
of the SPLM Caucus in the National Assembly. Aligo remarked that
the NCRC has taken "too long" in preparing a draft of the electoral

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law and stated that he was certain that it will not be reviewed by
the National Assembly in its extended January session. The extended
session, which is due to close on 16 January, will be used to finish
debating issues such as the police law and the National Language
Act, said Aligo. The schedule for the two weeks is "full", and
there will be no time to address new issues such as the electoral
law (NOTE: This is contrary to what some local news sources have
reported, that the extended session was created specifically to
debate the police law and the electoral law. END NOTE) If Aligo is
correct, then the draft law will not be reviewed by the National
Assembly until the next meeting of the National Assembly in April
2008. He speculated that the Assembly will ratify the law by May
2008 and that the NEC will be named sometime around June 2008.
Given that the rainy season begins in April each year, the NEC will
only have 10 months to plan for and carry out elections by the
CPA-mandated deadline if the timing of events follows Aligo's

7. (U) The National Assembly made no provision for elections funding
in its 2008 budget plan because of the lack of an electoral law.
Aligo informed poloff that as soon as the NEC is established, it
will have to file for elections funding from the GNU's reserve fund.
He was skeptical that elections funding, both domestic and
international (donor-given), would arrive on time. Aligo also
expressed concern about the ability of the NEC to pull off elections
in such a short time given the logistical challenges they will face
(i.e. - lack of venues for polling stations, difficulty in
distributing materials, etc). Lastly, he noted that a voting system
favoring majority direct representation would benefit the SPLM. "We
control a huge chunk of this country," and the 60
(direct)-15(proportional)-25(women) split would be advantageous for
the SPLM.

8. (U) Sudanese Professor Mukhtar El-Assam, former University of
Khartoum professor and current professor of political science at
Garden City College, warned that the Sudanese are putting too much
stock in national and state assembly elections and not enough stock
in presidential and gubernatorial elections. El-Assam, an elections
expert who received his Masters and PhD in the UK and routinely
writes on electoral issues in local newspapers, claimed that because
so much attention is focused on the negotiation of percentages for a
mixed electoral system, people are ignoring the importance of
selecting the next Presidents (of the GNU and the GoSS) and state
governors. So far, he said, only the NCP has put forward a
presidential candidate for the 2009 national elections, which is
Al-Bashir. He opined that SPLM will not put up a candidate for the
GNU presidency, stating that they are content to fill the slot of
the first vice-president. The SPLM will be most focused on winning
the presidency of the GoSS, he said. (NOTE: In theory, all Sudanese
citizens who are registered to vote will be able to cast a ballot
for the presidency of the GNU in the national elections.
Additionally, Southern Sudanese, who are registered to vote in the
elections in the South, will also be able to cast a ballot for the
presidency of the GoSS. If a candidate from the North wins the GNU
presidency, the person who is elected President of the GoSS will be
named the first vice president of the GNU. If a candidate from the
South wins the GNU presidency, the majority party in the National
Assembly will select the first vice president. END NOTE.)

9. (U) El-Assam also discussed the potential hurdles in carrying out
the elections by July 2009. First, he said, the census must take
place no later than mid-April 2008 in order to determine accurate
voter constituencies. Second, special attention must be paid to
voter registration, which without an NEC in place currently lacks
any planning, financial resources, or manpower. Third, publication
of the registration will be a complex process. Finally, conducting
campaigns and elections in Darfur will be challenging given the
current security environment.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: Although delay in completing a final draft of
the electoral law is nothing new, we were hopeful that the National
Assembly would ratify the draft law, if received from the NCRC and
then the Council of Ministers, in its extended January session. Even
though our SPLM source indicated that discussion on the electoral
law cannot be worked into the extended session, the real hold-up
seems to continue to be the NCRC (surely the Police Law and the
Language Act cannot be more important than the Elections Law at this
point in Sudan's history.) While Abdallah Idris claims that the
NCRC is looking to reach full consensus among the parties on the law
before it moves to the National Assembly, the fact of the matter is
that both parties have an interest in delaying the electoral process
and seem content to quibble over a ten percent difference in direct
versus proportional voting. The SPLM wants to buy time on the
census so that the results will be more complete and include the

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maximum number of their constituents. Both the NCP and the SPLM are
content with the status quo, with hefty oil revenues currently
shared primarily between the two CPA partners (with revenues going
to the GNU and GoSS.) However, both parties risk undermining their
partnership and the CPA with their delays, and the longer the
hold-up, the more difficult it will be for the NEC to deliver
quality elections in 2009.


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