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Cablegate: Dostum's Voter Registration Appeal

VZCZCXRO5691
RR RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #3028 3251313
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201313Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6190
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS KABUL 003028

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO AID FOR ASIA/SCAA
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR WILKES
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A, CG CJTF-101 POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ETRD EFIN AF

SUBJECT: DOSTUM'S VOTER REGISTRATION APPEAL

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Junbesh party founder General Abdul Rashid Dostum
has appealed to all Afghans to register to vote in the 2009
elections. In particular, he calls upon mullahs to encourage women
to vote and asks businessmen to provide transportation to voter
registration centers for people living in remote areas. Dostum's
message is unlikely to motivate non-Junbesh supporters to register.
For Dostum, it is an attempt at improving his own battered image in
the eyes of the Junbesh faithful as the start of the campaign season
draws near. Still unknown is to whom he will throw his support next
year, as both president Karzai and the United Front have courted him
for his influence among Uzbek voters. END SUMMARY.


Dostum Endorses Voter Registration
---------------------------------

2. (SBU) In a flyer distributed widely across the northern provinces
and in news reports aired by Aina TV (owned in part by Dostum),
Dostum calls upon all Afghans to do their patriotic duty by
registering to vote. He says that just as Junbesh was the first
party to participate in the Demobilization, Disarmament, and
Reintegration process (DDR), so too does Junbesh want to lead by
example by supporting the voter registration process. He urges
women, students, elders, his own party faithful and anyone who has
lost their voter registration card or is turning 18 years of age to
register for next year's elections. He also exhorts mullahs and
businessmen to do their share: mullahs, by encouraging women to
vote and businessmen, by providing transportation to voter
registration centers to people in remote areas. At least one ethnic
Uzbek businessman and Junbesh supporter - Lower House MP Mohammad
Yousuf Ghazanfar (Balkh, Uzbek)- has agreed to provide
transportation to voter registration centers for people in
Uzbek-dominant districts of Balkh province.

3. (SBU) On November 16, the Junbesh women's wing in Jowzjan
province hosted a rally at the Junbesh palace, where Dostum's
message was read aloud to 300 female supporters. Similar meetings
have been held in other districts of both Jowzjan and Faryab
provinces. Junbesh is also planning to hold a women's voter
registration rally in Balkh province.

Dostum's Likely Motivation
-------------------------------

4. (SBU) With various scandals associated with his behavior likely
ruling out a return to a high-ranking government post, Dostum knows
his continued influence in Afghan politics is tied to the number of
Uzbek votes he can turn out. Dostum's message is unlikely to stir
anyone to register to vote who isn't already a Junbesh supporter.
But at least on paper, the message is consistent with Junbesh's
desire to broaden its appeal beyond its ethnic Uzbek and Turkmen
base. And perhaps of greatest importance to Dostum, it reinforces
his image as the heart and soul of Junbesh in the eyes of the party
faithful as the campaign season draws near.

WOOD

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