Cablegate: Ifes Engagement with Egypt's Supreme Elections
DE RUEHEG #1255 1701010
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181010Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9585
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW 0057
UNCLAS CAIRO 001255
NSC FOR PASCUAL
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PO EG
SUBJECT: IFES ENGAGEMENT WITH EGYPT'S SUPREME ELECTIONS
REF: 2007 CAIRO 1408
Sensitive but unclassified. Not for Internet distribution.
1. (SBU) On June 16, the Egypt country director for the
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
debriefed us on a June 2-7 trip to Poland that IFES, in
coordination with the Al Ahram Center for Political and
Strategic Studies, arranged for three senior members of
Egypt's Supreme Elections Commission (SEC), together with the
SEC's secretary-general. The trip was funded through IFES'
USD 1.3 million grant with USAID Egypt, and was the first
direct contact IFES has yet had with the SEC (Carlson and his
IFES colleagues met the SEC members for the first time while
boarding the plane), due to sensitivities on the Egyptian
side about the appearance of "foreign interference" in
2. (SBU) The SEC participants were Adel Zaki Andrawes (SEC
chairman), Hassan Ahmad Hassan Soliman (SEC deputy chairman),
Mohamed Ahmed Abu Zeid (SEC member), and Entesar Nessim Hanna
(SEC secretary-general). (Note: The SEC has 11 members total.
End note). During the trip to Warsaw, SEC members met
repeatedly with the Polish National Elections Commission
(NEC), which had prepared a program that offered the SEC
access to various actors at all levels of the Polish
electoral process. In addition to meetings with the Polish
NEC, the SEC met with justices of the Polish Constitutional
Court, Supreme Court, district level electoral commissions,
and a mayor. During their meetings, the SEC delegation
expressed interest in such issues as the operations of
elections commissions, out-of-country voting, voter
registration, and voter participation. According to IFES,
while the SEC members were initially suspicious, by the end
of the trip there was discussion of potential future
cooperation between IFES and the SEC. In terms of the next
step, IFES is aiming for another international exchange trip
in the late fall (post-Ramadan), to visit either the Indian
or Indonesian election commissions. IFES remains cautious
and sanguine about the next steps, as the SEC is still
sensitive about cooperation, and is "not yet fully on board,
although they have come a long way."
3. (SBU) The Egyptian ambassador to Poland sat in on all the
meetings in Warsaw. He was supportive, but did make a point
of noting that IFES is not legally registered as an NGO in
Egypt, a detail which the SEC members seemed well aware of.
The ambassador will undoubtedly send a report to the Egyptian
MFA reporting on the SEC's experience in Warsaw, which he
described to IFES as "very positive."
4. (SBU) Comment: Since it was created in May 2007 (reftel),
SEC members have repeatedly refused requests to meet with
U.S. officials, including at the ambassadorial level. They
had also previously rejected meetings with IFES. The recent
break-through is in no small part the fruit of IFES'
low-profile, go-slow, confidence building approach of working
through Egyptian partner institutions to reach out to key
Egyptian players such as the SEC.