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Cablegate: First Phase of Voter Registration Wraps Up Well

VZCZCXRO3583
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2939 3101236
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051236Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6070
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS KABUL 002939

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 MCGRAW
CG CJTF-101, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: FIRST PHASE OF VOTER REGISTRATION WRAPS UP WELL

REF: A. KABUL 1701
B. KABUL 2914
C. KABUL 2708

1. (SBU) Phase 1 of the voter registration update for the
14 central highland provinces reached its official end date
on November 5 with 828,708 voters -- and counting -- added to
the rolls (REF A). Nuristan province and selected districts
in Ghazni, Wardak, and Logar will remain open until
mid-November to compensate for days lost to security problems
and logistical delays (REF B). Outlying areas are still
transmitting data to the Kabul headquarters of the
Independent Election Commission (IEC), but IEC Chief
Technical Officer Daoud Ali Najafi expects that Phase 1 will
wrap up with some 900,000 new voters registered. IEC staff
opened 257 of the planned 260 Phase 1 sites. The IEC
publicly acknowledged that registration could not proceed in
three districts (two in Ghazni, one in Wardak) and explained
alternative methods to allow these voters to register.

2. (SBU) Phase 1 was remarkably free of violence despite
Taliban threats against officials, sites, and voters. No
citizens or IEC staff were killed during Phase 1 -- an
accomplishment that the IEC counts as one of its successes,
and a credit to the Afghan security forces. A mortar round
landed near a voter registration site in the Rashidan
district center in Ghanzi, but it is unclear whether the
voter registration site was the target. As reported REF C,
"local Taliban" burned voter registration materials en route
to Nuristan province.

3. (SBU) The fledgling IEC substantially met the challenges
of starting up operations in remote and difficult terrain
where roads are few, internet connections are rare, phone
service is intermittent, and armed opposition groups are
active. In less than three months, the Commission hired and
trained more than 2,500 staff; procured forms, computers,
furniture, and satellite phones; designed and published
billboards and radio spots; and distributed materials by
plane, helicopter, jingle truck, horse, and donkey. The IEC
is expanding its public outreach efforts beyond modern media,
including staging on November 2 a successful and
highly-publicized national meeting of mullahs who pronounced
that voting is an Islamic privilege and obligation, and that
women should be encouraged to participate. The IEC developed
an effective working relationship with UNDP ELECT and other
donor technical advisors -- an international cadre now
one-fifth the size of that on the ground in 2005 -- and
retained a strong leadership role in key decisions. Field
staff in particular demonstrated commitment and initiative,
facing down Taliban death threats and solving everyday
problems with the resources to hand.

4. (SBU) Afghan voters in the Phase 1 provinces appear
eager to participate in the democratic process. In Kunar
province, for example, more than 97,000 new voters
registered, adding about half again as many voters to the
191,374 who enrolled in the baseline registration exercise in
2004. Thirty-eight percent of new voters thus far are women,
a figure that compares favorably with 41 percent in the
previous electoral cycle. Local elders in many communities
offered IEC workers their own security guarantees to
facilitate registration in remote areas. In Parwan province,
where IEC staff shared only one vehicle, community leaders
volunteered to transport election workers so that more
communities could register.

4. (U) The 14 Phase 1 provinces are Ghor, Dai Kundi,
Bamyan, Wardak, Panjsher, Kapisa, Badakhshan, Takhar, Ghazni,
Nuristan, Kunar, Sar-i-Pul and Logar.
WOOD

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