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Cablegate: Political Agreement Reached On Separate Election

VZCZCXRO8618
OO RUEHIK RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #0877/01 1011338
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 101338Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3543
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 03 KABUL 000877

SIPDIS

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: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: POLITICAL AGREEMENT REACHED ON SEPARATE ELECTION
CALENDAR; FOCUS TURNS TO PREPARATION AND FUNDING

REF: KABUL 498

1. (SBU) Summary. The prolonged political debate
between Parliament and the Palace ended this week with
an agreement to hold separate Presidential (in 2009) and
Parliamentary (in 2010) elections using a Single Non-
Transferable Voting (SNTV) system for the parliamentary
elections. President Karzai agreed to the separate
election calendar advocated by Parliament (and United
Front) in return for Speaker Qanooni and other
Parliament leaders giving up their call for a system of
proportional representation (PR). The Independent
Election Commission (IEC) issued a statement on April 9
confirming the decision on the election calendar.
Parliament continues to debate the electoral law, which
will formalize the agreement on the election system, but
the political agreement allows the government and
international community to begin detailed planning,
including identifying funding sources. SRSG Kai Eide
told us he is meeting with Karzai and will reinforce our
messages on the need for presidential decrees to spur
the IEC, ministries, and donors into action. Addressing
funding gaps and lack of leadership and capacity at the
IEC must be priorities if the first elections run by
Afghans themselves are to take place on time and be a
success. UNAMA is attempting to draft a timeline for
key decisions as a means of helping Karzai and the GoA
to focus on decisions. End Summary.

Karzai and Qanooni Craft a Compromise
-------------------------------------

2. (SBU) A series of meetings over the past month
including the Palace, Parliamentary leadership, and
other senior Afghan politicians, produced agreement
that there will be separate elections, with Presidential
and Provincial Council elections in autumn 2009 and
Parliamentary and District Council elections in summer
2010. This calendar is consistent with the constitution
and Wolesi Jirga Speaker Qanooni's preferred outcome.
(His position reflects his interest in being able to run
for president without risk of forfeiting his seat in the
Wolesi Jirga.) In return, Qanooni (representing the
United Front as much as parliament) gave up his demand
for at least some seats being allocated by means of
proportional representation (PR). While parliament is
still debating the electoral law, it is understood that
Qanooni has agreed it will call for all seats being
allocated by means of SNTV (single non-transferable
vote). Candidates will be able to list their party
affiliation with their name, but all votes will be
cast for individuals, not party lists.

Lower House Debates the New Election Law
----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) The Wolesi Jirga (Lower House) debate over the
draft electoral law will continue until all 70 articles
have been discussed. Each article and issue provides an
opportunity for contentious debate. Progress stalled on
April 9 over an article that will determine whether
Koochis (nomads) should be allowed to cast their ballots
in any province or only in those where they are
concentrated. The Lower House also engaged in a lengthy
debate over the ballot counting methodology, which is
technically outside their purview. (When, how, and
where ballots are counted will be an IEC decision, but
parliamentarians who cite reports of fraud in the
counting process during the last elections, are
determined to make their view known.) Agreement on the
election calendar removes a major disincentive for
finalizing the election law, but debate in the Wolesi
Jirga (Upper House) is expected to continue for at least
a week. The bill then goes to the Meshrano Jirga for
review before going to the President for signature.

Planning for Voter Registration Behind Schedule
--------------------------------------------- --

KABUL 00000877 002 OF 003

4. (SBU) There must be a new voter registration,
regardless of the election system adopted. According to
draft timelines, the registration process should take
place during the summer of 2008 and last two months,
with the possibility of another round to catch any
missing registrants prior to the 2010 Parliamentary
elections. The plan is to have voters register and vote
at the same polling center of the 7000 to be established
across the country.

5. (SBU) UNDP, through the ELECT program, is providing
technical assistance to the IEC as it develops a
registration plan and budget, but the process is well
behind schedule due to a lack of IEC capacity and
presidential guidance. GardaWorld, a private security
firm funded by USAID, is conducting a voter registration
operations and logistics assessment across Afghanistan.
Their report, due by mid-April, will help guide
decisions by the IEC on implementation of voter
registration. The IEC is planning to establish a voter
registration operations center (VROC) at the IEC, and
possibly a voter registration security center at the
National Police Command Center. The MoD, MoI, NDS,
ISAF, and CSTC-A have agreed in theory to staff these
centers, however they say they need the yet to be
completed IEC operational plan to determine the
appropriate level of support. COMISAF has made clear
that ANSF will be responsible for security for voter
registration and elections, and ISAF will provide 'in
extremis' support only.

Significant Funding Gap will Need to be Filled
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (SBU) While the U.S. anticipates funding a
significant share of the costs of registration and
elections, other donors will need to provide the
additional $279 million needed to cover the balance of
the estimated $480 million cost of registration and
elections, including security. At this time, only the
U.S., the UK, and Canada have pledged support. USAID is
likely to increase their initial contribution for voter
registration by $50 million for a total of $65 million,
and anticipates contributing approximately $136 million
for the elections themselves (for a total U.S.
contribution of $201 million). Canada and the UK have
pledged approximately $4 million and 1 million pounds
respectively for voter registration. The IEC has still
not produced a preliminary budget which would help focus
other donors on the need to identify resources to fill
the funding gap.

IEC: More Responsibilities than Leadership or Capacity
--------------------------------------------- ---------

7. (SBU) Weak leadership and capacity at the IEC
contribute to slow progress on key electoral projects,
including budget preparation, registration planning,
voter education, and training. The commission,
independent in name only, receives direction from the
Palace, but only limited financial, managerial, or
political support. All planning documents must pass
through the board of commissioners before being released
and enacted. The terms of the board members expired in
January, and while the incumbents remain in place, they
are essentially placeholders. The Chairman is ill and,
even when healthy, largely ineffective. President
Karzai may be more likely to name the new Commission now
that there is agreement on the calendar and law. In the
meantime, the IEC staff lacks direction, lacks direction
or drive.

International Support to Afghan Elections
-----------------------------------------

8. (SBU) International engagement on the elections issue
has lagged, but Kai Eide has quickly focused on the

KABUL 00000877 003 OF 003


issue. We reviewed for him on April 8 the challenges,
our timeline and what we and UNAMA elections experts
agree is the estimated budget to be funded. (He was
visibly surprised by the $480 million figure.) He
welcomed the input, saying he would be meeting with
President Karzai on the issues within days and planned
to use the timeline to underline the importance of
prompt decisions and action to achieve the goal of
successful Afghan-run elections. Eide said he
would highlight the funding issue as well and flag the
Paris Conference as the critical point for garnering
the resources that will be needed. These messages
track with those we have delivered to the Palace,
to key parliamentarians, and to the IEC.

9. (SBU) UNDP is developing a comprehensive funding
document for distribution to donors. Several
donors say they expect some Afghan financial
contribution to voter registration and elections.
Current cost estimates, based in large part on the
2004/2005 elections, are however roughly twice the
Afghan national budget. Thus any Afghan contribution
will be symbolic and not lessen substantially the
need for donor support. The May JCMB meetings and
June Paris Conference will be critical opportunities
to rally donors to fund roughly half of the budget.
DELL

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