Cablegate: Niger: Voter Registration Drive

DE RUEHNM #0727/01 2061432
R 241432Z JUL 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary. Niger's voter registration drive took place June 19 -
July 10, 2008. The National Committee to Pilot the Revision of the
Voter Register (known by its French acronym CNPRFE) was created in
2007 to prepare a new voter register. After a long delay related to
the committee's organization and funding, it started planning its
activities in January 2008. While the committee claims that its
mission was a success, the media have expressed some doubt about the
scope of the registration. The registration process, based on
door-to-door collection of voter names, documentation, and
preparation of inclusive voter lists, is scheduled to be completed
in time for the 2009 elections. End summary.

2. The CNPRFE was created as a predecessor to the actual election
committee, the Independent National Electoral Commission (known by
its French acronym CENI). In order to prepare good local and general
elections in 2009, all political parties and the government agreed
on the need to update the voter list in order to reflect a
population that has changed enormously since the last voter
registration in 1993. The CNPRFE prepared a budget of just over $9
million for its activities (office operation, recruitment and
training of registration workers, public awareness drive, and
logistics). It also outlined a detailed time table which, if all
goes as planned, should be completed by April 2009, in time for the
local elections scheduled for June 2009 and national elections
scheduled for November-December 2009. (The local elections were
originally scheduled for July 2008 but were postponed due to a delay
in installing local councils after the 2004 election and the
adoption of various amendments to the electoral code.) The
commission's request for foreign assistance for voter registration
met resistance from donors who wanted to see the budget for the
entire election process before committing to support the
registration. However, the election budget cannot be developed
until the CENI is in place. The government decided to begin the
registration process without the expected foreign assistance, which
allowed the registration to begin on June 19, about a month later
than scheduled.

3. Between June 19 and July 10, 4,200 CNPRFE agents went
door-to-door throughout the country to register voters. In the
north, where there is an ongoing insurgency, registration was done
in the major cities and by updating old lists in coordination with
village chiefs. The objective of the registration was to include
voters who have reached voting age, exclude persons who have died,
delete multiple registrations, exclude persons with criminal
records, and to correct and clarify the assignment of some villages
to several communes. The agents were instructed to accept several
types of identification, including national ID cards, passports,
birth certificates, driving licenses, military ID cards, military
pension booklet, and family booklets.

4. CNPRFE head Hamidou Moumouni announced on July 3 that the
registration had progressed without major problems. He admitted,
however, that the registration would finish a week later than
scheduled due to an unexpectedly large population in Niamey.
Pessimistic projections before the registration suggested that the
agents would not be able to register over 30 percent of the
population. One setback was the continual blackouts which prevented
agents from working at night. Eventually, they were outfitted with
flashlights to overcome this difficulty. The MNJ (Mouvement des
Nigeriens pour la Justice) rebel group in the north criticized the
results of northern registration, claiming that the new voter list
would gravely under represent the actual northern population. The
MNJ also threatened to obstruct the registration. However, the MNJ
has not claimed that its recent attacks were an attempt to disrupt
the registration process. Comment: One of the main issues during the
Tuareg rebellion in the 1990's was their lack of representation in
government. While this is not the main focus of the current
rebellion, the movement still denounces the under representation of
Tuaregs in government. A registration that is contested as
misrepresentative of northern populations could therefore exacerbate
current tensions. End comment.

5. The registration process is only the first step towards the
elections. Potential donors complain that the government's handling
of the pre-election activities has been unorganized. Expecting to
see a budget for the entire election, donors have instead received
complaints from the GON about a lack of adequate foreign funding for
the registration, despite the fact that the GON did not include it
in its own budget. The preparation of the election budget should be
the responsibility of the CENI, which has yet to be formed. The GON
has explained that when election experts come in September, they
will focus on forming the CENI. The June 2008 amendment to the
Electoral Code provides that the CENI will become a permanent body
and will be installed when the national voter register becomes

6. While awaiting the results of the voter registration drive, there
is a general perception that additional corrective rounds will be
required in order to have a comprehensive and reliable voter
register. Among the issues that the CNPRFE should address are the
registration of nomadic communities and Nigeriens abroad. Also, in
the context of increasing tensions surrounding the 2009 election,
including the arrest of former prime minister and leader of the MNSD

NIAMEY 00000727 002 OF 002

ruling party Hama Amadou, there remains speculation that president
Tandja may seek a third term, although the president has stated on
several occasions that he has no intention of staying in office.


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