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Cablegate: Civil Society Announces Election Observation Plan

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PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHLU #0615 2211530
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081530Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY LUANDA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4956
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS LUANDA 000615

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

PASS TO USAID/IMCNAIRN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM AO
SUBJECT: CIVIL SOCIETY ANNOUNCES ELECTION OBSERVATION PLAN

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a July 25 press conference, the NGO
Plataforma Eleitoral (Electoral Platform) announced its plan
for civil observation of the September 5 legislative
elections. The Plataforma plans to deploy 2,623 civil
society observers on election day, providing electoral
observation in all 18 provinces and in 54% of Angola's 163
municipalities. As civil society observation was not
permitted in the failed 1992 elections, the Plataforma's
efforts are viewed as an important building block in the
construction of a credible, transparent electoral process, as
well as an important learning experience for Angola's largely
nascent civil society. END SUMMARY

Observation Methods: Deep, not Wide
-----------------------------------

2. (U) The Plataforma, a national umbrella organization for
election-related NGOs in all 18 provinces, built on lessons
learned while monitoring the electoral registration process
to develop the electoral observation plan. With the support
of the USAID-funded National Democratic Institute (NDI), the
Plataforma worked to create a feasible and realistic plan,
given the limited financial means of its member NGOs and
logistical constraints faced in the provinces. Key
logistical hurdles include a) the lack of transportation in a
country in which few own cars or motorbikes and most rural
roads are unimproved or unusable due to landmine
contamination, and b) communication, as the majority of rural
areas are not covered by the oversubscribed and notoriously
unreliable cell phone network, and only provincial capitals
are connected to equally unreliable landlines.

3. (SBU) Rather than overly stretch its limited capacities in
what it hopes is the first of a series of election
observation efforts, the Plataforma has planned deep, rather
than wide, coverage for these elections. Its 2,623 observers
will cover 88 (54 percent) of Angola,s 163 municipalities.
702 observers, or 26 percent, will be used in Luanda alone,
as Luanda represents the largest single slice of the
electorate. Observers will stay at one polling station from
opening to closing and take note of issues such as the
atmosphere around the polling stations, setup of the voting
stations and conduct of electoral officials, and attempts to
influence voters. While the Plataforma's volunteers will not
conduct exit polls, it is exploring the possibility of
conducting a small pilot program of parallel vote tabulation
(PVT) using a limited number of volunteers, in order to study
the feasibility of conducting PVT on a wider scale in the
Presidential elections currently slated for fall 2009 and
local elections planned for 2010 or 2011. The organization
is also experimenting with various means of transmitting
information, such as text messages with information that can
then be plugged into a central national database.

Additional Challenges: Recruitment and Training
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (SBU) Additional challenges include the recruitment and
training of observers; as the only other election in Angolan
history were 16 years ago, many potential observers have
never actually participated in or seen an election. In order
to create a standardized observation techniques, the
Plataforma, in coordination with the National Democratic
Institute (NDI), is implementing a "train-the-trainer"
training plan at the national, provincial and municipal
levels. A team of Plataforma supervisors and NDI consultants
will visit training events to ensure standardization.

5. (U) NDI's funding, training and technical assistance for
the Plataforma is made possible by funding from USAID's
Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening
(CEPPS). Other donors include the EU, DFID, Spain, and
Norway.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: The Plataforma faces clear organizational
and operational challenges in this effort, but its leaders
are motivated by the important role played by civil society
observers in Zimbabwe's elections. While the Plataforma
would like to provide more extensive coverage for Angola's
upcoming race, neither the national organization nor its
provincial counterparts (known as the "rede eleitoral", or
electoral network) has the funding for, or even more
importantly, the human capacity to effectively execute such
an operation. By showing it can successfully a smaller-scale
observation effort this go around, the Plataforma can then
look to expand operations for future elections. END COMMENT
MOZENA

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