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Cablegate: Karbala's Preparations for Provincial Elections

VZCZCXRO9991
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #3597 3181235
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131235Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0365
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 003597

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: KARBALA'S PREPARATIONS FOR PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS

This is a PRT Karbala reporting cable.

(U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified; handle
accordingly. Not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) PRT members met with the Government Elections
Officer (GEO) on November 6 and the United Nations Assistance
Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) Representative on November 9 to
discuss preparations for the provincial elections, expected
to be on January 31. The GEO believed that Karbala was on
track for increased party participation and high voter
turnout. The UNAMI representative expressed concerns that
poorer voters, upset at the lack of government services, may
view the elections as irrelevant. Iraqi Security Forces and
municipal authories are still making plans for election day
security and voter transportation, each of which will affect
voter turnout. End summary.

2. (U) Karbala GEO Safa Ibrahim told us that 67 lists (slates
of candidates) had been registered in the province by the
November 3 deadline, representing nearly 1,000 candidates.
Safa said that 37 of these lists are Karbala-based political
entities, representing independents and local small parties,
while others represent national entities.

Voter Registration and Outreach
-------------------------------

3. (U) Safa believed there were no problems with voter
registration in Karbala. He said that Karbala voter rolls
now include 518,000 people, up from 214,000 just prior to the
2005 elections. On voter education, Safa said the GEO was
developing a media plan that will disseminate information on
the electoral process and educate voters using sample
ballots. The lists will be identified by specific numbers
ahead of time, making it easier for candidates on a given
list to campaign.

4. (SBU) Sheikh Ali Kamonah, the UNAMI representative (and
former Governor of Karbala) said that UNAMI, supported by
federal officials and NGOs, had sponsored 180 voter education
workshops at the qadaa (district) and nahiyah (subdistrict)
levels. He said that a UN-sponsored conference on voter
education had been planned in order to reach influential
leaders (including tribal leaders), but was canceled due to
the lack of an elections law. Kamonah believed the
conference would be rescheduled but did not give a date.

5. (SBU) Kamonah was concerned that "simple people" who had
participated in the 2005 elections but were frustrated at the
lack of improvement in services, would view the 2009
elections as irrelevant and sit them out. He said a
significant drop in voter participation, particularly among
the lower classes, "would be a disaster."

Election Day Security and Transportation
----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) On polling day, according to Safa, the city will
give extra permits to allow an increase in bus traffic. he
said the number of polling stations is roughly the same as in
2005 (218) and they are mostly in schools. However, Kamonah
said that in 2005 some government-provided buses used to
transport voters to the polls were used only to service
particular neighborhoods. Kamonah said if a curfew and extra
security requirements are imposed on election day (as they
were in 2005) these will create additional barriers to
turnout. He believed that increased security, coupled with
the unfamiliar "open list" system, would create long waits at
the polling stations and a big disincentive to vote.
CROCKER

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