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Cablegate: National Assembly Presses Sudanese Presidency to Table

VZCZCXRO9632
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0830/01 1550821
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 030821Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0955
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000830

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, S/E WILLIAMSON, DRL
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM SOCI UNSC SU
SUBJECT: NATIONAL ASSEMBLY PRESSES SUDANESE PRESIDENCY TO TABLE
LONG-DELAYED ELECTIONS BILL

REF: (A) KHARTOUM 291
(B) KHARTOUM 455

--------
SUMMARY
--------
1. (SBU) On 28 May, the National Assembly adopted a resolution
requesting that the Presidency table the long-delayed electoral
bill. The resolution could lead to one of two alternatives - either
the Presidency will feel compelled to resolve the outstanding issues
on the law itself or it will submit the disputed bill to Parliament
for the Assembly's consideration. The bill originally was sent to
the Presidency to resolve differences between the NCP and SPLM on
key provisions. If the bill is submitted to the Parliament still
without NCP-SPLM agreement, SPLM and other opposition parties fear
that an NCP-version of the law will be passed by a simple NCP
parliamentary majority. Such an outcome will result in a heated and
tumultuous start to Sudan's electoral process. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -----
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ANXIOUS TO DEBATE ELECTORAL BILL
--------------------------------------------- -----
2. (U) In the first show of determination by politicians to move on
the electoral bill, the National Assembly passed a resolution on 28
May calling on the Presidency to table the bill. The National
Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC) had submitted the severely
overdue bill to the Presidency in March 2008 to resolve the final
three issues on which high-level NCP and SPLM officials could not
agree (ref a). Although the hope was that the Presidency could
resolve these issues, it has not acted on the bill since receiving
it.

3. (SBU) According to NCRC Co-Chair Abdulla Idris, the Sudan
Consortium meeting in Oslo sparked party interest in the elections,
hence the current movement in Parliament whereby various factions
are "jockeying" for position to move the bill to parliamentary
debate. "You must read between the lines," Idris told Poloff on 29
May. Political parties want to hold elections on time; however the
SPLM would like issues such as Abyei and border demarcation to be
resolved first, he claimed. Idris hinted that it is the NCP that is
pushing the Presidency to table the elections bill.

4. (SBU) Idris surmised that the Parliamentary resolution will
result in one of two actions: either the Presidency will resolve
the three remaining issues under pressure from Parliament, or
Parliament will "seize the draft bill and deliberate on it." The
SPLM and the Communist Party in particular fear that if the
Presidency allows the Parliament to deliberate, the NCP will
bulldoze its preferred draft through using its simple majority.
Idris noted that such an action would be the start of a "rocky road"
to next year's elections. "At minimum, to hold a fair election
there must be acceptance of the electoral law by major parties such
as the NCP, the SPLM, and Umma," he said.

5. (U) Idris warned that if the Presidency does not submit the draft
bill to the Parliament by 15 June, an extraordinary session in July
will have to be called to debate the bill. Although the draft
electoral law has been a long time in coming, Idris believes that
the National Assembly's resolution will create a "new development"
on the law in the coming ten days. GNU Minister of Parliamentary
Affairs, Joseph Ukel, publicly announced that the bill could be
tabled at the Council of Ministers meeting in Khartoum the week of 1
June.

---------------------------------------------
NCP AND UMMA SEE EYE-TO-EYE ON ELECTORAL BILL
---------------------------------------------
6. (U) On 20 May, NCP and the National Umma Party, headed by former
Prime Minister Al Sadig Al-Madhi, signed the "National
Reconciliation Agreement." In it, the two parties agree on the
final three points of the electoral law. According to Idris, Umma
conceded to a 60 percent first-past-the-post/40 percent proportional
voting system. NCP agreed to list women candidates for national and
state assemblies on a party list, rather than a stand-alone women's
list. Furthermore, NCP and Umma agreed that the proportional vote
should take place at the national level using a national-level list,
rather than at a state level using state-level lists. Umma is only
one of numerous parties that the NCP has been courting on its
proposed version of the electoral bill. Its highly publicized
agreement with the Umma Party represents the NCP's first victory in
co-opting an opposition party to accept its preferred electoral-law
provisions. (Comment: The SPLM has indicated it will not accept a
60/40 proportional voting system, although it would compromise on a
55/45 level, and it wants proportional voting to be on a state
rather than national level. If the electoral law is pushed through
Parliament at the 60/40 percent proportional voting at a national

KHARTOUM 00000830 002 OF 002


level over their objections, it is quite likely the SPLM would
boycott the elections altogether.)

---------------------------------------
RAMPING UP TO DRAFT THE REFERENDUM BILL
---------------------------------------
7. (SBU) Last week, NCRC members met for the first time to discuss
drafting the bills on the 2011 referendum on independence for Abyei
and Southern Sudan. Idris remarked that the body is "quietly
collecting data" on case studies in order to draft the bill, noting
that with the priority for movement on the electoral bill and 2009
elections, now is not the right time to publicly launch a
referendum-drafting campaign. Idris added that important issues
must be worked out before the bills are drafted, such as border
demarcation and defining who is a Southerner.

-------
COMMENT
-------
7. (SBU) The Parliamentary resolution requesting that the Presidency
deliver movement on the electoral bill is the first sign that
politicians are taking charge of the electoral process. Many hoped
that the Presidency would be able to resolve the final issues of the
law expeditiously. To the contrary, the Presidency paid little
attention to the bill and two and a half months have been lost. If
the bill is tabled and ratified in the coming few weeks and a
National Electoral Commission is named, seated, and funded at a
rapid-fire pace soon thereafter, UNMIS officials predict it would be
possible, although still challenging, to hold voter registration and
publish voter lists during the 2009 dry season (January-March) and
hold the first round of elections in December of that year.
However, if the NCP and its allies steamroll through Parliament an
election bill that is seriously opposed by the SPLM and its allies,
the future of the elections will be in serious doubt.

POWERS

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