Cablegate: Assembly Passes Electoral Law Amendments

DE RUEHLU #0411/01 1481318
R 271318Z MAY 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: On May 20, 2008 the National Assembly
passed a series of amendments to the electoral and
registration laws, most of which affect various timelines in
the registration and electoral process. Opposition parties
strongly opposed the changes, particularly the extension of
deadlines for announcing provincial election results from 4
to 7 days, and the national election results from 10 to 15
days. While the amendments will not force a postponement of
the planned September 5/6 election, the National Electoral
Commission (CNE) must notify the President before June 5 that
conditions are set for elections or the planned date could be
challenged as unconstitutional. End Summary.

MPLA Pushes Changes Through Assembly

2. On May 20th the MPLA-dominated National Assembly passed a
series of MPLA-proposed amendments to Angolan electoral and
registration laws. The most controversial of these
amendments extend the deadline for announcing provincial
election results from 4 to 7 days and the national results
from 10 to 15 days. MPLA parliamentary leaders called these
extensions necessary given the poor state of Angola's
infrastructure and projected difficulties in transmitting
results, and noted that provisional results would be
available far sooner. NOTE: Electoral regulations call for
voting stations to "immediately" post results on the station
door, which should facilitate relatively accurate provisional
results. END NOTE

3. (SBU) Other amendments eliminate one seat on the national
and local election commissions. The seats were held by
judicial branch representatives on the election commissions,
and were eliminated due to constitutional provisions
prohibiting judges from holding positions or jobs outside the
judiciary. These changes increase the power of the
commission president, as they leave the electoral commission
with an even number of seats, giving the president of each
commission a tie-breaking vote. It is as yet unknown how
this change may affect the National Electoral Commission
(CNE) President Caetano de Sousa, who is also the
vice-president of the Supreme Court. The GRA has
long-justified his position on the CNE, as de Sousa is on a
leave of absence from the court.

Meeting the President's Timetable?

4. (SBU) One amendment extends the amount of time the
Inter-Ministerial Commission for the Registration Process
(CIPE) must publicly display electoral rolls following a
registration period from 4-15 days following the
registration's end to 15-30 days. As a result, the CIPE
won't complete and turn the rolls over to the CNE until early
July 2008, or up to 31 days following the May 31 end of the
registration update currently underway. It is unclear
whether the CNE will wait until the rolls are submitted
before it informs President Dos Santos that conditions are
set for elections, which is a legal prerequisite to the
President's convocation of elections. As the President must
convoke elections at least 90 days before the election date,
if the CNE waits for the registration rolls, elections will
be in early October, rather than early September 2008.

5. (SBU) The remaining amendments affect minor changes to the
amount of time allowed to submit, in writing, notice of
errors in the electoral rolls, and the amount of time that
authorities have to respond to these written complaints.

Opposition Ire Sparked by Amendments

6. (SBU) Critics accuse the MPLA of putting the stability of
the electoral process at risk by making these changes so
close to the projected election date. Eight of the largest
opposition parties and coalitions signed an official protest
of these changes and accused the MPLA of "introducing a
flawed procedure that could later be used to legalize
operational fraud, as is happening in Zimbabwe." National
Electoral Commission (CNE) spokesman Adao de Almeida welcomed
the changes, noting the logistical hurdles posed by the legal
requirement that certified hard copies of the results be
delivered from voting stations to municipal authorities and
on up the chain of command.

Elections Remain on Track for 2008

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Political parties and Angolan voters are
waiting to see if the CNE will notify President Dos Santos
that conditions are set for legislative elections in time for
him to officially call elections 90 days in advance of the
planned September 5/6 vote. The amendments to the electoral

LUANDA 00000411 002 OF 002

law will not force a postponement of the election day(s), but
certain provisions related to the publication of voters rolls
could be used by the CNE to justify a delay in notifying the
President that electoral conditions are set. The
constitutionality of two days of elections, as announced by
the President, versus one day has yet to be resolved. END

© Scoop Media

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