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Cablegate: Thinking Ahead About Election Challenges at the Iec

VZCZCXRO4864
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2416/01 2480410
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040410Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5391
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 002416

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-101, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: THINKING AHEAD ABOUT ELECTION CHALLENGES AT THE IEC

1. (SBU) Daoud Ali Najafi, Chief Technical Officer of the
Independent Elections Commission (IEC), is thinking ahead
about how to resolve potential challenges to the legitimacy
of the electoral process. Facing widespread public
speculation that insecurity will discourage voter
registration, and subsequently yield a discrediting low
turnout on voting day in 2009, Dr. Najafi has prepared his
"contingency plans."

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SOLUTIONS TO LOW PARTICIPATION: MOBILE TEAMS AND MORE TIME
--------------------------------------------- --------------

2. (SBU) If the IEC's operational data analysis shows voter
registration in some areas to be much lower than official
population estimates would suggest, the IEC will investigate
whether the cause is inaccessibility or insecurity, and
devise an appropriate solution. For inaccessibility, the IEC
will consider transferring staff from the voter registration
site in the district centers (capitals) to new, more remote
voter registration locations in that district. Likewise, if
low turnout plagues the one-month intensive voter
registration period in a particular region, the IEC may set
aside extra funds to keep district-center voter registration
sites there open for a longer period. Keeping a voter
registration facility open at the IEC provincial headquarters
is another option, and would incur no additional cost.

3. (SBU) The IEC's mobile teams also offer a good
alternative for reaching both remote and violence-prone
areas, even districts where government control is weak,
according to Dr. Najafi. The district-level IEC civic
educators, Dr. Najafi says, may choose to open discussions
with local and tribal leaders to persuade them to accept the
mobile teams as "guests" under traditional norms, ensuring
the team will have both access and security. Like a fixed
voter registration site, each mobile team will have five IEC
staff. These five staff will travel in one vehicle, stopping
to register voters in an area for a day or two, either by
prior arrangement or simply by going door-to-door.

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PROTECTING THE IEC"S POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE
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4. (SBU) Dr. Najafi is also working to defend the
independence of the Commission and rebuff potential criticism
that its technical decisions and operations have partisan
motives. He recognizes that the IEC will need to show its
data and analysis to forestall criticism that districts with
Karzai supporters might benefit disproportionally from
extended registration. Najafi turned down Interior Minister
Zarar's August 28 request to swap around the provinces
designated for Phase One of voter registration, even though
Zarar dwarfs Najafi in both rank and political clout.

5. (SBU) Najafi strongly opposes the National Assembly's
draft law proposing to subject the Commissioners to
legislative approval. It is unconstitutional, says Najafi,
because the Constitution defines both the standing of the IEC
(Articles 156 and 157) and specifically lists senior
officials subject to legislative approval, without mentioning
the IEC.

6. (SBU) Najafi argues the law would, moreover, introduce a
crippling partisanship. The National Assembly took two years
to approve the justices of the Supreme Court, and, Najafi
says, would certainly dicker longer over IEC commissioners.
(Najafi, like many legislators, appears to be engaging in
amateur constitutional interpretation to suit his argument;
the translated text on legislative concurrence on justices
and the election commissioners is virtually identical.)

7. (SBU) Dr. Najafi believes that the impetus behind the
new law on the IEC is largely the festering quarrel between
Lower House speaker Qanooni and IEC Chief Commissioner Dr.
Ludin, which dates from Ludin's opposition to Qanooni's
ambitions when Ludin served in the National Assembly

KABUL 00002416 002 OF 002


Secretariat. In discussions with the legislative committee,
Dr. Najafi drily noted that poll data show that legislators'
claim to represent the populace is weaker than the
President's: Karzai won with 55 per cent of the vote, but
most National Assembly members polled 20 per cent or less.
WOOD

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