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Cablegate: Phase 2 Voter Registration Off to a Good Start

VZCZCXRO4500
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2942/01 3111042
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061042Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6072
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002942

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: PHASE 2 VOTER REGISTRATION OFF TO A GOOD START

REF: A. KABUL 2939
B. KABUL 2914

1. (SBU) Phase 2 voter registration for the eight northern
provinces and Paktya and Kabul provinces began November 5.
The Independent Elections Commission (IEC) reported that 322
of the 326 Phase 2 sites are open. Delays in delivery of
supplies prevented four sites in remote areas of Badghis
province, along the northwestern border with Turkmenistan,
from opening on schedule. The IEC estimates these sites will
open by November 8. As expected, first-day turnout appeared
to be light. IEC Deputy Chief Technical Officer Zekria
Barakzai noted that Phase 2 contains large population
centers, including the cities of Kabul, Herat,
Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, and Gardez, and the IEC estimates as
many as 1.5 million voters may register during Phase 2.

2. (SBU) Mission officers on November 5 visited a smattering
of voter registration sites in Kabul city, including schools,
a Ministry of Women Affairs site, and a mosque. The
locations were clearly marked, fully staffed, and properly
equipped. IEC officials were cognizant of voter registration
procedures, including politely asking the foreign guests for
their IEC observer identification cards. A PRT officer
visited a voter registration center in Shebergan, capital of
Jowzjan province, and reports operations were running
smoothly on opening day. The Free and Fair Election
Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) has organized some 350 local
volunteer observers for Phase 2, as it did in Phase 1. FEFA
will use recently-obtained international funding to publish a
formal Phase 2 report on data compiled from its observer
checklist and follow-up interviews with voters.

---------------------
SECURITY OUTLOOK GOOD
---------------------

3. (SBU) The Afghan security forces' coordinated assessment
of security for Phase 2 provinces shows almost all areas as
"low threat." The analysis identifies only Paktya province
and Sorobi district in Kabul as "high threat" areas. Phase 1,
in contrast, contained areas "under enemy control," although
no Phase 1 area reported deaths in connection with voter
registration activities (REF A.) The Baghlan provincial
electoral officer praises the close cooperation he has
enjoyed with his security counterparts; local police thwarted
a suicide bomber targeting a voter registration security
planning meeting in Puhl-i-Khumri. Security coordination in
Paktya and Kunduz provinces includes daily meetings. Some
Kunduz IEC staff have received threats; only one of the 27
district field coordinators, however, has resigned as a
result. With the assistance of the PRT, the Herat IEC has set
up a small coordination center for voter registration
operations.

------------------------------------
IEC LOGISTICS BETTER BUT NOT PERFECT
------------------------------------

4. (SBU) In contrast to Phase 1 (REF B), all Phase 2
provinces received registration kits and delivered them on
time to their districts, excepting the four remote districts
in Badghis province. Delays in delivery of tents have left
some sites operating in the open in all Phase 1 provinces; in
Baghlan province (Phase 2) 50 percent of sites are without
shelter until the tents arrive. Regional IEC staff and
provincial electoral officers cite Thuraya satellite phones
as their next greatest need.

5. (SBU) IEC field staff continue to show ingenuity in
devising solutions to logistical and supply problems. In
Herat, electoral officials adjusted their delivery plan to
compensate for last-minute changes in site locations, whether
requested by IEC headquarters, or, in one case, by local
religious leaders. Herat officials compensated for materials
missing from some registration kits by assigning the complete
kits to remote areas and using the incomplete kits in the
city, where alternatives are easier to obtain. In Archi
district in Kunduz, the IEC recruited the
culturally-acceptable alternative of a venerable greybeard to
operate the women's registration center when no female
district field coordinator could be found.

---------------------------
LINKING PEACE AND DEMOCRACY
---------------------------

KABUL 00002942 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) The IEC held a press conference in the provincial
electoral office of Kabul to mark the opening of Phase 2.
Kabul governor Haji Din Mohammed, an ethnic Pashtun, told the
media that "The time of Kalashnikovs is past" and democracy
is Afghanistan's future. Other notables at the podium took up
similar themes, describing elections as the way forward to
peace and security, and voting as the duty of every Muslim.
IEC Chief Technical Officer Daoud Ali Najafi said "these
elections are directly the responsibility of every Afghan"
and underlined Afghan, vice international, leadership of the
electoral process. Najafi noted that popular support was key
to the success of Phase 1 registration; he also congratulated
the media on their important role in voter education. A
similar IEC press conference took place in Herat.

7. (U) The 10 Phase 2 provinces are Kabul, Herat, Balkh,
Kunduz, Badghis, Faryab, Jowzjan, Samangan, Baghlan, and
Paktya.
WOOD

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