Search

 

Cablegate: New Election Law Unlikely, but Elections Still On

VZCZCXRO7294
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2249/01 2370611
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 240611Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5219
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 002249

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 AF
SUBJECT: NEW ELECTION LAW UNLIKELY, BUT ELECTIONS STILL ON

REF: KABUL 1193

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. After lingering on the National Assembly's
Lower House agenda for weeks, a proposed election bill is
unlikely to come to a vote in time to impact next year's
presidential elections. Nonetheless, future candidates and
election experts agree that the political consensus and legal
framework to conduct presidential and provincial council
elections next year are in place. The Independent Electoral
Commission (IEC) remains committed to the current timeline,
with voter registration beginning October 6 and voting day
planned for August 2009.

Draft Law Going Nowhere for Now
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) The proposed election bill has been caught in the
middle of a dispute over National Assembly seats reserved for
Kuchi nomads elected country-wide (reftel). Ethnic Pashtun
MPs support the status quo while many non-Pashtuns advocate
returning the 10 seats in question to electoral districts
(currently each province serves as a multi-seat district
depending on population) or distributing half the seats to
non-Pashtun nomads. The Lower House created a 20-member
bipartisan commission to find a compromise last spring, but
it has been unsuccessful. The commission did not meet during
the
June-July legislative recess and many of its members on both
sides are among the most hard-line opinion holders on the
issue and have stated publicly that they will not support a
compromise solution.

3. (SBU) Saleh Mohammad Regestani (Panjshir, Tajik),
chairman of the Legislation Committee and a member of the
bipartisan commission, said he does not expect the proposed
election law bill to reach the house floor, even though
parliament staff continue to place it on the agenda. He said
disagreements between the two sides remain unresolved and
some MPs have threatened to break quorum if a version of the
bill they disagree with reaches a vote. Regestani himself
has a reputation for antagonizing his opponents and
suggesting "compromises" he knows the other side will not
accept, thereby drawing out disputes such as this with
Pashtun nationalists. His committee has tried to punt the
dispute to the IEC, which has declined to opine on political
matters.

4. (SBU) Parliament's inaction effectively runs out the
clock on making changes to election law. According to the
Afghan Constitution's Article 109, the National Assembly
cannot amend election law during the last year of its
legislative agenda. Most interpret this to mean the year
preceding the presidential election, currently set for August
2009. MP Kabir Ranjbar (Kabul, Pashtun), Government Affairs
Committee chairman, said he thought a new election law could
slip in a few weeks past the constitutional one-year
deadline, as most officials were already overlooking the
Constitution's mandate for a presidential election no later
May 2009, but that the Kuchi seats issue was so divisive, no
solution would be possible for several months.

Other Options on the Table, but Status Quo Likely
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) Haji Ibrahim, brother and chief of staff to Lower
House Speaker Yunus Qanooni, said the Lower House would keep
the elections law on its agenda in the hopes that a
compromise will emerge. However, he and others believe more
likely outcomes in the coming months are (in descending order
of probability):

- Nothing will happen. If parliament does not pass a new
election law, the previous law will stand and the election
will operate under those rules.

- President Karzai will issue a decree authorizing
changes in the election law while MPs are in recess in
December. Although these changes would effectively change

KABUL 00002249 002 OF 002


the law within 12 months of an election, most accept the
Constitution only forbids the National Assembly from changing
the election law within the one year, not the president.

- Parliament will draft a scaled-down version of the
election law and pass it within the next few months, putting
off issues related to the Kuchi seats and the 2010 National
Assembly elections until next year. The practical result of
this action would be ratifying the present law, as absent
changes for the 2010 parliamentary elections, the current
bill proposes no major changes for carrying out the
presidential elections.

6. (SBU) Leaders of the opposition United Front coalition
support a comprehensive election law, but also recognize it
is most likely unattainable in the near-term. Neither the
United Front nor any other major faction in parliament has
called for delaying next year's election. Instead, the
United Front is setting its sights on more minor changes to
the country's elections system in an effort to reduce what
they see as President Karzai's influence over the process.
One member of the United Front's executive committee close to
former president and Jamiat party leader Burhanuddin Rabbani
(Badakhshan, Tajik) said the United Front would demand the
resignation of the IEC chairman and seek parliamentary input
into his replacement. Political and legal experts differ on
whether the legislature has the authority to do so, but the
United Front,s objective is more to register its concern
that Karzai, as incumbent and candidate, should remain
outside decisions on the electoral process that could
introduce bias.

Elections Will Go On
--------------------

7. (SBU) A new election law promised two possible
benefits: solidifying a political consensus behind elections,
and demonstrating that Afghan democratic institutions,
particularly the legislature, are moving beyond the
transitional phase. The legal provisions of the 2005 law and
the present bill are largely similar, and the many small
suggested changes relate to constituencies and representation
(like the vexing Kuchi issue), the role of parties, and
anti-fraud measures. Caught between ethnic rivalries and
political positioning, the new law is unlikely to come up for
a vote any time soon. The easiest course of action for all
sides will be to let the issue pass; Karzai's predilection
for avoiding difficult decisions in favor of interim
solutions and parliament's inability to bring controversial
issues to a final vote mean elections under the current law
will be the likely outcome. Because opposition and incumbent
presidential contenders are publicly declaring their
candidacies, and the IEC and the legislature accept the
proposed electoral calendar, the sought-for political
consensus seems certain. As for consolidating democratic
institutions, the elections themselves are the most important
signal of progress.
WOOD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC