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Cablegate: Coming Soon: The National Electoral Commission

VZCZCXRO6326
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1204/01 2211009
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 081009Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1552
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001204

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/SPG, S/E WILLIAMSON, DRL - RSPRING
NSC FOR BPITTMAN AND CHUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PHUM SOCI SU
SUBJECT: COMING SOON: THE NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION

REF: A. KHARTOUM 1198

--------
SUMMARY
--------
1. (SBU) The Presidency is due to announce the nine members of the
National Electoral Commission (NEC) within one week. Opposition
parties have provided the Presidency with a solid list of 29
candidates, which one NCP Parliamentarian close to the regime calls
"excellent." Once established, the NEC's first order of business
will be to tie up loose ends not addressed in the electoral law.
UNMIS Electoral Affairs Officer Ray Kennedy has hinted that he may
not hang around for the elections due to his frustration with the
slow pace of establishing a legal framework to conduct the
elections. Should this happen, it could severely affect UNMIS'
ability to effectively manage its mandate to provide technical
electoral assistance to the GNU and the GoSS. Finally, an NCP member
has hinted that the regime might hold presidential elections in 2009
and hold legislative elections later. End Summary.

---------------------
FORMATION OF THE NEC
---------------------
2. (SBU) On 4 August, opposition parties jointly provided the GNU
Presidency with a list of 29 potential candidates for the National
Electoral Commission. Most of those on the list are well-respected
Sudanese intellectuals and professionals, known for their
impartiality. None of those on the list is NCP, so it is unlikely
that the Presidency will choose all nine members from the list. On
7 August, poloff spoke with NCP heavyweight Ibrahim Ghandour,
parliamentarian and president of the Sudan Workers Trade Union
Federation, who said that he had just met with opposition parties
with regard to the list. It is an "excellent, excellent" list, said
Ghandour, "and we will use it." He pointed out that both of the
National Constitutional Review Commission Co-Chairs, Abdulla Idris
and Abel Alier, who landed on the opposition parties' list, would be
admirable choices because of their experience in drafting the
electoral law and their ability to adeptly seek input from and work
with all parties. The electoral law states that the Presidency must
form the NEC within one month of the passage of the law. Legally,
the Presidency has until 14 August to do this; however, Ghandour
said that the Commission will likely be announced before that date.
[Note: Candidate Abdulla Idris is a close contact of US Embassy
Khartoum, as are other candidates such as ex-National Democratic
Alliance Secretary Faroug Abu Eissa and Afad University for Women
Lecturer Blgees Badri. End Note.]

-----------
LOOSE ENDS
-----------
3. (SBU) Although an official GNU-translated English version of the
electoral law has not yet been released from the Ministry of
Justice, UNMIS Chief Electoral Officer Ray Kennedy has been able to
draw several conclusions from the law. Notable are the loose ends
in the text that the NEC must deal with by issuing rules and
regulations on a variety of issues (reftel). Chief among these is
how registration will be conducted, as well as whether Southern
Sudanese in the diaspora will be able to vote for the President of
Southern Sudan (diaspora voting for the GNU President is provided
for in the law), and how fractions of seats will be dealt with among
the parties. UNMIS is ready and willing to offer capacity building
and technical assistance to the NEC when it is established. After
tying down loose ends, the Commission must immediately turn its
attention to "districting" when census results are revealed
(estimated December 2008 or January 2009). Kennedy said there will
be more than 1,100 single-member districts and it will take teams of
four people working in each state for six months to clearly define
the districts. If census results are rejected by the GNU or the
GoSS, Kennedy said it is not impossible to use voter registration to
determine districting.

-----------------------------------------
UNMIS ELECTORAL CHIEF HINTS AT DEPARTURE
-----------------------------------------
4. (SBU) Kennedy has hinted on a few occasions that he may depart
Sudan in November 2008 when his one-year contract expires, despite
the fact that UNMIS expects him to extend for at least an additional
year to carry out the organization's mandate to provide technical
assistance to the GNU and the GoSS in the upcoming elections.
Frustrated by the extremely slow GNU progress on putting in place a
legal framework to conduct elections, as well as the lack of an
interlocutor (the NEC) and a formal GNU invite for UNMIS to provide
electoral assistance, Kennedy is tempted by the greener pastures of
more senior-level UN positions elsewhere. When asked what it would
take for him to stay, he responded that the establishment of a
capable and open NEC would be a good start.

KHARTOUM 00001204 002 OF 002

------------------------------------
HOLD PRESIDENTIAL, DELAY LEGISLATIVE
-------------------------------------
5. (SBU) According to Kennedy, prominent NCP figure Mohamed Ahmed
Salim, head of the Political Parties Registrar, has indicated to
UNMIS that the GNU might hold presidential elections first and
separate from legislative elections. Presidential elections will
only require two ballots (one for the President of the GNU, the
second for the President of the GoSS), and hence less preparation
time, unlike legislative elections that will entail seven ballots in
the North and ten in the South. Furthermore, presidential elections
can be held without districting, while legislative elections require
border delimitation. Kennedy said this would be one way for the GNU
to manageably hold elections in 2009, even if only partially. [Note:
Kennedy did not indicate whether he agreed or disagreed with this
approach. End note.]

--------
COMMENT
--------
6. (SBU) Although passage of the electoral law was dreadfully slow,
all signals point to the rapid establishment of an NEC now that the
law is in place. Opposition party input to the Commission is an
extreme plus, and the opposition's suggested candidates appear to be
well-qualified national figures. Although there is no way to know
how many of these candidates the Presidency will select, NCP
discussion with the opposition on their list suggests the regime is
truly looking for a variety of qualified individuals. If Kennedy
departs in the fall, it will be a major loss to UNMIS, which will
struggle to find someone who can fill Kennedy's shoes rather quickly
in order to carry out the UNMIS mandate of providing electoral
assistance to the GNU and GoSS.

FERNANDEZ

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