Cablegate: Angola Optimistic That Its Elections Won't Mirror Kenya's

DE RUEHLU #0119/01 0421912
P 111912Z FEB 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. 07 LUANDA 1275; B. LUANDA 83

1. (SBU) Summary: Angola is moving ahead toward September
legislative elections. Catch-up voter registration is slated for
April and May. CIPE, the inter-ministerial body carrying out the
voter registration, will provide the National Election Commission
(CNE) a map with proposed locations for all polling stations as well
as detailed information on the state of the nation's infrastructure
system and locations of the populace, before CIPE dissolves itself,
leaving the CNE to conduct the elections. Government ministers
involved in the electoral process and USAID's democracy/governance
partners are optimistic that the elections will, in fact, occur in
September and will be free from any orchestrated violence or vote
rigging. The biggest variable in the election outcome is how
citizens who perceive themselves as failing to benefit from Angola's
economic boom will conduct themselves in the election process: will
they stay home; cast spoiled ballots; vote for anybody but the
ruling MPLA; or, vote for the ruling party for old-times sake? The
tragic post-election events in Kenya cast a pall over the elections
process in Angola, though observers here cite many reasons why a
Kenya-like situation would not unfold here. Nonetheless, the
Embassy will engage political actors to make sure they draw the
right lessons from Kenya: the elections in Angola must be as
credible and transparent as possible. End Summary

2. (SBU) Angola continues to proceed apace toward legislative
elections this September. Although a few skeptics remain among
independent Angolan observers, the prevailing mood is that the
elections will indeed take place on September 5 and/or 6, as
President Dos Santos announced Dec. 27, 2007 (Reftel A)).
Edeltrudes Costa, Vice-Minister of Territorial Administration and
responsible for "electoral issues," briefed Ambassador Mozena on Feb
8 that the election process remains on track. He explained that the
CIPE (Interministerial Commission for the Electoral Process), which
he chairs, is entering the final phases of its engagement in the
election process, after which it will be disbanded. In March CIPE
will launch a nationwide civic education campaign to inform the
population that those who failed to register during last year's
registration campaign and those who since then have or will turn 18
before the September elections should register during the planned
April-May catch-up registration period. He said CIPE expects to add
300,000 - 400,000 new registrants to the electoral rolls, which
already number over 8 million. Costa said the CIPE will culminate
its work once it provides the National Election Commission (CNE)
with a map designating the proposed locations of the polling
stations (estimated by the CNE president to number nearly 10,000 -
reftel B.) Costa clarified that the actual conduct of the elections
will be solely the responsibility of the CNE.

3. (SBU) Costa recognized that the logistics of conducting the
elections are daunting, opining that the CNE would need two days to
carry them out. He added that President Dos Santos, too,
appreciates that logistical considerations will necessitate a
two-day election period. He said Dos Santos in his election
announcement was more concerned about these logistical realities
than he was about the letter of the law, which indicates that
elections should be held in a single day. He did not offer how this
inconsistency could be resolved. He noted that if the GRA were to
try to hold the elections in a single day and then failed, the
international community, the political opposition, and civil society
would immediately accuse the GRA of fraud. Since the CIPE will have
conducted two nationwide registration campaigns, Costa added, it
would know best the logistical challenges the CNE will confront in
conducting the balloting. The Vice-Minister said the CIPE will
convey its vast knowledge of the state of Angola's infrastructure
and the precise whereabouts of the population to the CNE, so the
latter can use this in devising its own logistical plans for the

4. (SBU) Looking ahead, Costa declared that presidential elections
will "definitely" be held in 2009. Beyond that, he said local
elections will be held in 68 pilot municipalities in 2010, expanding
by 2012 to include all 163 municipalities. Yet to be determined is
whether elections for Angola's 554 "comuna," districts within
municipalities, will also be held by 2012 or deferred until later.
(Note: immediately prior to the meeting with Costa, the ministry's
other Vice-Minister, Luis de A. da Mota Liz, who is responsible for
decentralization, chatted with the Ambassador and sketched the
ministry's efforts to decentralize governance from Luanda to the
provinces and local levels. He expressed great appreciation for the
work done by USAID under the Municipal Development Program, which
has been critical to efforts to devolve governance to levels closer
to the people. Mota Liz, too, noted that elections at the local
level would begin in 2010. End Note)

5. (SBU) Assessing the upcoming elections through a political lens,
Costa said the greatest concern from the perspective of the ruling
MPLA party is voter absenteeism. The Vice-Minister's concern echoes

LUANDA 00000119 002 OF 002

that of a prominent MPLA parliamentary leader who told the
Ambassador at a dinner gala February 1 that the MPLA knows it can
defeat the political opposition handily ... the only issue is voter
turnout. He added that the MPLA is aware that many citizens are
dissatisfied with their quality of life and believe that the
country's explosive economic growth (in macro terms) has not
benefited them. The MPLA leader said his party simply does not know
how these voters will conduct themselves on election day. He
thought this concern would be even more serious during the 2009
presidential elections, when the voters' ire could be focused on a
single individual, than during this year's legislative elections,
when he hoped voters would be swayed to participate in the elections
on the basis of their "abstract" support for the party itself, which
had won the nation's independence and achieved peace.

6. (SBU) During a separate, earlier roundtable discussion with
USAID's Democracy and Governance implementing partners, all
participants (IRI, NDI, IFES, Search for Common Ground, and UNDP)
agreed that the legislative elections will take place in September,
as announced. The partners, some of whom have been working
election-related issues for years in Angola at the grassroots level,
were uniformly optimistic that the elections would be peaceful and
free from orchestrated fraud and vote rigging, with two caveats.
Spontaneous outbursts of frustration may arise over any logistical
breakdowns, and local zealots attempting to commit fraud may cause
sporadic incidents, though any such incidents would be limited and
not affect the outcome of the elections. The biggest concern shared
by the partners was the CNE's ability to carry out the elections
logistically. IFES, the only outside body asked by the CNE to
assist with election logistics, is working with the CNE to develop
an efficient administrative structure that would enable the CNE to
make decisions fast and effectively in carrying out election
logistics. Such a structure, the IFES representative declared, is
critical to the CNE's success in conducting the polling.

7. (SBU) The partners were unsure how voters would express their
frustrations over quality of life issues. Some detected malaise and
apathy among voters who believe their vote would make no difference;
others found many voters excited about having a registration card
and the prospect of voting for the first time in their lives. A
third possibility evinced by some of the partners was that voters
would go to the polls, but then cast spoiled ballots to register
their complaint that the ballot offered no real choices.

8. (SBU) Comment: Democracy in Angola has champions in
Vice-Ministers Costa and Mota Liz. Young, bright, determined, both
are working hard to make democracy real in Angola. So far, they
have an impressive record: The voter registration process that
Costa spearheaded was fair, transparent and credible, as even the
opposition parties concede. As well, it was a marvel of modern
technology performing well in some of southern Africa's most remote
and inaccessible locations. Mota Liz has overcome stiff resistance
from party stalwarts of an earlier generation in winning Dos
Santos's public approval for decentralization of governance,
including local elections. The optimism of the two Vice-Ministers
and of USAID's Democracy/Governance partners was palpable, though
tempered by the unexpected and tragic events unfolding in Kenya in
the wake of that country's December 2007 elections. Although all
interlocutors were quick to cite reasons why the Kenya experience
would not play out in Angola (here tribal antipathy is much less,
the people are so sick of conflict they would refuse to take to the
streets, opposition leaders are not inclined toward violence), Kenya
nonetheless casts a pall here. The Embassy will work to ensure that
Angola's political actors draw the right lessons from Kenya: to
make the elections as credible and transparent as possible. End


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