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Cablegate: Electoral Commission Lays Out Timeline From Now To

VZCZCXRO6600
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHAB #0290/01 1271701
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061701Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4208
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABIDJAN 000290

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM IV
SUBJECT: ELECTORAL COMMISSION LAYS OUT TIMELINE FROM NOW TO
ELECTION DAY

REF: ABIDJAN 120

1. (SBU) Summary: Independent Electoral Commission President
Mambe briefed Ambassador May 2 on the Commission,s timeline
for meeting the November 30 election date. Voter
registration will take place for a 45 day period in
July-August; the time before and after will be devoted to
ensuring that the necessary modalities are in place to
register voters and to validate the electoral list after the
registration period closes. Mambe used the occasion to also
thank Ambassador for USG funding to NDI, which played a
central role in developing the Code of Good Conduct signed by
the political parties during UNSYG Ban ki Moon,s recent
visit to Abidjan. End Summary.

INS-SAGEM-CEI STILL NEED TO ESTABLISH WORKING CONDITIONS
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (SBU) Ambassador and PolCouns called on Independent
Electoral Commission (CEI) President Robert Beugre Mambe on
May 2 to discuss how the Commission planned to carry out its
mandate to coordinate the work of Sagem, the French company
that is to issue ID and voter registration cards, and the INS
(Institut National de Statistique) which has registered
voters in the past. According to a decree signed by
President Gbagbo on April 14,(ref A) the CEI will resolve any
disputes between the INS and Sagem. Mambe told Ambassador
that he was not yet certain of how the three organizations
(CEI, INS and Sagem) will work together. The three were to
meet on May 6 in a session that Mambe will chair to hammer
out the details. The CEI president did not, however, seem
overly concerned about the issue. He implied that the
obstacles had always been political rather than technical.

HOW THE ELECTORAL LIST WILL BE COMPILED
----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Turning to the central question of who will be able
to vote, Mambe discussed at length how the electoral list
will be compiled. The 2000 electoral list will be the
starting point for the 2008 electoral list. Ambassador asked
if all the political parties had agreed to this proposition
and Mambe assured her that they had, noting that all parties
had been given an opportunity to challenge the list and that
each and every issue raised was addressed by the CEI and the
INS. However, no names were added to or removed from the 2000
list. Mambe explained that every voter on the 2000 list will
still need to register and be documented to vote in the 2008
election. The only advantage is that individuals on the 2000
list will be presumed to be Ivorian citizens. The 2008 list
will also include persons who were over 18 in 2000 but who,
for whatever reason, were not on the 2000 list and persons
who had reached the age of 18 by March 31, 2008. Individuals
can register by presenting a birth certificate or replacement
birth document (jugement suppletif) issued by the mobile
courts (audiences foraines) or a copy of a birth certificate
if the relevant registry was destroyed and had to be
reconstituted. According to Mambe, reconstitution of civil
registries will begin soon.

4. (SBU) Mambe said that any individual who presents
him/herself to register and has a birth certificate or
jugement suppletif will be registered. Dubious cases will be
checked against national files already in existence. He
noted that the Working Group on Identification will determine
which such files will be utilized. Mambe told Ambassador that
the CEI plans to publish the electoral list three months
prior to the election, regardless of the fact that the law
only requires the list to be published one month in advance.
The list will also be posted on the internet to give
political parties and the general public an opportunity to
review it before the final list is presented to the
government. Mambe confirmed that the revised electoral code
provides that any individual can contest the inclusion of any
person on the list, as well as the failure to include any
person. The CEI examines and resolves every challenge. If
the challenger is dissatisfied with the CEI's findings, he
can appeal to a court, which has 8 days in which to render a
decision. Mambe said all challenges must be resolved before
the CEI gives the final list to the government.

ANTI-FRAUD MEASURES
-------------------

5. (SBU) To reassure the political parties and the general
public that the identification/registration process will be
fair, personnel from CEI, INS, the National Office of
Identification (ONI), the National Supervisory Commission on
Identification (CNSI), and Sagem will be present at all
registration sites. Mambe conceded that guidelines covering

ABIDJAN 00000290 002 OF 002


how this profusion of agencies will work together still need
to be established, but was confident that the presence of so
many entities would be a significant deterrent to fraud, as
well as to any effort at discrimination. Individuals may
register to vote at any site in the country, but they must
select and stipulate at what location they will cast their
votes. The CEI, ONI, and CNSI representatives will receive
registration forms and supporting documents. INS and Sagem
will take applicants' biographic and biometric information.
Mambe explained that each registration site will daily print
out a list of persons registered that will be cross-checked
against applications submitted. The list will be forwarded
on CD-ROMs to coordination centers which will transmit them
to three sites in Abidjan: an ONI, a CEI one, and a central
site. Mambe said that the coordination centers and the 3
Abidjan centers will also all have personnel from CEI, ONI,
CNSI, INS, and Sagem.

Determining Citizenship - the Biggest Potential Pitfall
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (SBU) All persons enrolled on the 2000 list are presumed
to be Ivorian citizens. Mambe underscored that the
Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) provides that only a
birth certificate or replacement birth certificate is
needed to register to vote. These documents do not state the
holder's citizenship, but do include his/her parents'
citizenship. Should a question arise about a registrant's
citizenship, Mambe said that one way people who are not on
the 2000 list could prove citizenship would be to show that
one of their parents is on the 2000 list. The CEI will
verify or determine citizenship in other cases based on
national files already in existence as noted in para 4 above.
Mambe noted that persons who have certificates of nationality
or other documents indicating citizenship, such as an expired
national ID card, can show them when registering to vote to
avoid having their registration challenged. Mambe admitted,
however, that determining citizenship will be the most
difficult challenge for the CEI. He was keenly aware of the
need to demonstrate that cheating does not take place while
simultaneously ensuring that legitimate voters are not
disenfranchised.

Timeline to Election
--------------------

7. (SBU) Mambe said the personnel and machines needed for
voter registration will be in place by the end of June. He
expects voter registration to be conducted for 45 days
between early July and mid-August. The CEI will strive to
publish the draft electoral list 3 months before the
election, but can shorten that time period if it encounters
problems. According to Mambe, voter cards will be issued 15
days before the election.

8. (SBU) Comment. The timeline outlined by the CEI seems
doable, if all the necessary equipment is in place by the end
of June. The CEI appears to be playing it safe by allotting
more time than required to resolve any challenges to the
electoral list. Mambe,s concern about accurately determining
citizenship is well-placed given that "Ivoirian identity"
lies at the heart of the country's political crisis. Having
all of the government institutions with
responsibility for identification present at all sites
involved in the voter registration process may prove to be a
bit unwieldy but hopefully will accomplish the goal of making
it more difficult for any party to manipulate the
registration process or production of the electoral list.
Having all parties accept the validity of the electoral list
is a pre-requisite for having an election whose outcome is
accepted by all. Post will be following this issue closely.
End Comment.
NESBITT

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