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Cablegate: "Hybrid" Voter Registration Begins October 6

VZCZCXRO0844
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #1701/01 1891055
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071055Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4634
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 02 KABUL 001701

SENSITIVE
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 PREF AF
SUBJECT: "HYBRID" VOTER REGISTRATION BEGINS OCTOBER 6

1. (SBU) Summary: Afghanistan's Independent Electoral
Commission (IEC) will pursue a &hybrid8 voter registration.
Voters who have registration cards from 2004/5 may use these
cards at the polls. New voters and voters who lost their
card, must register for a new, enhanced voter card. The
IEC,s belated decision frees the IROA, the UN elections
team, and donors to move ahead smartly to address technical
and security issues. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The IEC briefed its much-delayed and much-debated
decision on voter registration to key partner country
ambassadors on July 5, and to the international community's
elections stakeholders group on July 6, with positive
reactions. Registration's goal, according to the IEC,s
briefs, is to capture all eligible voters who currently
reside in Afghanistan. (Note: This would seem to exclude from
the polls the estimated one million voting-age Afghans among
the two million refugees resident in Pakistan and an unknown
number of potential voters among the one million refugees and
migrants in Iran, as well as politically-engaged diaspora
Afghans living in the U.S. and Europe.) Previously-issued
cards will remain valid, and voters who did not register
previously, who have lost their voter card, or who will reach
18 before the cutoff for the 2009 elections, will be able to
register nationwide. Mobile registration teams will serve
Kuchi nomad voters. Newly-registered voters will be assigned
to a polling place, laying solid ground for the 2010
parliamentary electoral rolls.

3. (SBU) The voter registration strategy has several
provisions against possible fraud.
The new voter cards will have two thumbprints and a photo.
These biometrics will be part of the registry database and
will be used to weed out attempts to register, or to vote,
more than once. The IEC's Deputy Chief Zekria Barakzai
displayed an example of the finalized new voter registration
form to the elections stakeholders group, with three key
security features: a bar-coded serial number, rainbow-colored
printing, andintentional printing errors. The IEC noted that
voters who have a card and seek to register for a new card
will be required to submit their previous card for
destruction. Comparison of voter names between old and new
registries and of duplicate names will be possible, according
to Barakzai, although the IEC and the UN,s technical
advisors agree it is too soon to say whether these additional
steps will prove a useful enhancement to the indelible ink in
forestalling efforts to vote multiple times.

4. (SBU) The hybrid strategy eases slightly the burden on
the IEC,s still-nascent administrative capacity. With an
estimate of a maximum of 8 million potential registrants out
of the approximately 16 million eligible voters, the hybrid
process will use fewer registration sites and fewer field
staff than earlier plans. Registration will begin October 6
and will follow through four phases that address the travel
limitations of the winter weather. The central highlands,
excepting Kabul, will register first, before the snows, and
the south ) Nimroz, Helmand, Uruzgan, and Kandahar -- will
complete the cycle when registration concludes there in
February 2009. The UN elections team expects its procurement
specialists in Kabul by July 10, to help it accelerate its
support to the IEC. Public outreach to citizens on the voter
registration process is an urgent priority, IEC Chief Dr.
Najafi says. UNDP/ELECT chief Margee Cook appealed to the
elections stakeholders group for rapid delivery of donor
funds.

5. (SBU) With a final concept of operations in place, the
IEC is ready to re-engage the Ministry of Interior and the
Ministry of Defense on security for voter registration. IEC
President Dr. Lodin (protect) said July 6 that security is
now his chief concern. UNDP/ELECT notes that the principal
constraint on security operations for the 2004 and 2005
electoral process was helicopter lift capacity for IROA
forces. The hybrid strategy's phased approach remains
essentially the same as some earlier proposals, which should
facilitate security planning for October -- even as the
fighting season is underway now.

KABUL 00001701 002 OF 002


WOOD

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