Cablegate: Election Chief Optimistic About '08 Elections

DE RUEHLU #0083/01 0291031
P 291031Z JAN 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: During a January 23 call by Ambassador
Mozena, National Electoral Commission (CNE) President Antonio
Caetano de Sousa declared he was "optimistic" and "quite
sure" the CNE would successfully carry out legislative
elections in September 2008 in the time frame laid out by
President Dos Santos. He hoped the election could be only a
single day vice the two announced by the President. Caetano
acknowledged the importance of transparency in both planning
and executing the electoral process and confirmed that
international observers would be invited. He spoke freely
about the challenges faced by the CNE as it plans for
upcoming elections. Caetano spoke positively about
U.S.-funded IFES support for the CNE. END SUMMARY

Avoiding Kenya: Political Parties to Play Nice?
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (U) Caetano called ensuring fair and transparent elections
a "problematic" issue for the CNE, as so much of how
elections are viewed depends on the behavior of political
parties. How they conduct their campaigns and control the
expectations of their supporters will heavily influence the
legitimacy with which the electorate views the results, he
offered. In his view only two political parties truly matter
in Angolan politics: the MPLA and UNITA. Only these parties
have the resources and supporters not only to campaign
heavily nationwide, but to work with the CNE to observe
elections and conduct civic education. Despite the rocky
history these parties have had in the past election, Caetano
predicted both will "play nice" during legislative elections
as they position themselves for the '09 presidential run.

In Search of Transparency

3. (U) Caetano acknowledged the importance of working with
political parties along the path toward elections, to explain
consistently the CNE's decisions and create transparent
processes. He stated the CNE's intention to include
political parties and civil society in the planning process
and confirmed that the CNE's electoral calendar would soon be
made public so that stakeholders could plan their activities.
The calendar, a timeline of key events, is currently being
finalized; Caetano estimated it would be approved and
published within a week.

4. (U) Caetano spoke at length about the important role
trained electoral observers play in a just and transparent
electoral process. The CNE plans to train political party
and civil society election monitors in the electoral process
and electoral laws. Caetano affirmed that international
observers would also be invited; he stated that invitations
would be coming "soon," but would not specify when or
speculate on whom the GRA would invite. He did confirm,
however, that the CNE would credential designated Embassy
staff as observers, and stated that international observers
can be invited by either the GRA or any political party.
One logistical hurdle after another...

5. (U) The electoral calendar is but one step on a long
series of logistical hurdles the CNE must cross to conduct
transparent elections. He estimated the need for more than
10,000 polling stations nationwide; by law each services no
more than 1,000 voters. The CNE has yet to determine how it
will select the 5-7 people that will be hired and trained to
run each station, nor determined the means of communication
and transmittal of results between individual stations and
municipal authorities. Caetano did confirm, however, that
voting will be done by paper ballot and votes will be counted
publicly in an effort to increase transparency.

6. (SBU) Caetano stressed the CNE's efforts in covering rural
provinces that were a source of UNITA's discontent in 1992,
such as Moxico and Kuando Kubango. These large provinces
lack infrastructure and are heavily mined in places. He said
teams are using helicopters to explore logistical options in
Kuando Kubango. (Note: Curiously, he made no reference to
seeking information from the Inter-ministerial Commission for
the Electoral Process (CIPE), which presumably would have an
up-to-date picture of coping with the region's limited
infrastructure following its recently completed voter
registration drive. End note.)

7. (SBU) Caetano spoke positively about the support provided
by the USG-funded IFES program. He said the IFES team had
just seen him earlier in the day as they further develop
their action plan to assist the CNE with electoral logistics.
Caetano said he was pleased with the meeting and that he
looked forward to receiving their plan.

LUANDA 00000083 002 OF 002

One Day vs. Two Day Elections

8. (SBU) The only point that rattled Caetano was a question
on the President's controversial statement that elections
would occur over a two day period. Most opposition political
parties have decried this move, stating that it not only
violates the electoral law (which many interpret as calling
for a one day election) but could also facilitate fraud and
overnight ballot-box stuffing by the ruling MPLA. A visibly
uncomfortable Caetano confirmed the law "does speak of one
day," but stated the CNE had not yet taken a public position
on the issue, because it is still studying election logistics
in rural areas. He repeatedly stated the CNE intention to do
everything possible to conduct elections in one day, but, he
added, "at this point it's too early to determine if that is
a feasible proposition." He said he was surprised by the
President's statement, and wryly stated that perhaps Dos
Santos knows something the CNE doesn't about infrastructure

9. (SBU) COMMENT: Caetano seemed confident that the CNE is on
track for September '08 elections and took pains to detail
the CNE's efforts to create an inclusive electoral process.
Clearly, however, the CNE's most difficult work remains. The
IFES program will certainly help the CNE get a handle on
daunting logistical challenges.

© Scoop Media

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