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Cablegate: Yemen's Election Administration Technically Sound

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SANAA 000706

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM YM DEMOCRATIC REFORM
SUBJECT: YEMEN'S ELECTION ADMINISTRATION TECHNICALLY SOUND


1. (U) Summary: Technical preparations for the April 27
parliamentary elections are significantly better than past
efforts by the ROYG, which should increase citizen confidence
in the outcome of the elections. Improvements include a more
credible voter registration, increased transparency, better
election materials, widespread voter education and
significant moves by the ROYG to alleviate opposition
concerns about undue influence. An atmosphere of increased
political party competition, however, will offer challenges
for Yemen to continue its democratic progress and avoid
campaign violence (septel). End Summary.

2. (U) According to the United Nations Development Program
(UNDP), National Democratic Institute for International
Affairs (NDI) and International Foundation for Electoral
Systems (IFES), the ROYG,s technical preparations for the
parliamentary elections are vastly improved over past
elections. Past elections in 1997 (parliamentary) and 2001
(local) were judged largely free and fair by international
organizations despite some problems, including:

-- Technical inefficiency and lack of transparency and
communication on the part of the Supreme Election Commission
(SEC);

-- Poor voter registration administration and adjudication
resulting in diminished confidence in the voter lists;

-- Behind the scenes deals between political parties that
lessened citizen confidence in the election process;

-- Few women candidates and a small number of registered
women voting;

-- Ineffective voter education to create citizen
understanding of ballot secrecy and the importance of
exercising the right to vote.

3. (U) Increased collaboration between the Supreme
Committee for Elections and Referenda (SCER, re-named from
the SEC) and the UNDP, IFES and NDI, as well as a strong
political will on the part of the ROYG, has resulted in
significant improvements in election administration for the
April 2003 elections. Some of these improvements include:

-- More credible voter registration in late 2002 resulting in
fraud-resistant voter ID cards, better record-keeping
(including computerized voter lists that allow for checking
for multiple registration), more than 8 million voters
registered and a 40% increase in the number of women
registered;

-- Increased transparency on the part of the SCER to increase
confidence among political parties and citizens in the
process, including members drawn from across the political
spectrum, regularly televised open meetings, strong media
coverage, a willingness to openly admit problems and offer
solutions and close cooperation with international
organizations and donors;

-- Better technical materials and procedures for voting day,
including fraud-resistant voter ID cards and ballots,
official registries with photos and tamper-resistant ink to
prevent double-voting;

-- A confidence building measure by the SCER (advocated by
NDI) to alleviate accusations of strong military influence in
the election by placing decision-making to react to election
day disputes with a multiparty SCER committee (with a
military member) rather than solely with the military;

-- Strengthened voter education programs that include using
all media outlets, training voter education coordinators to
conduct programs country-wide and establishing voter
education centers.

4. (U) Several technical problems remain. The provision in
the election law allowing citizens to vote at either their
place of residence, work or birth leaves an opening for
multiple voting that is difficult to counteract despite
improvements in voter registration record-keeping and better
indelible ink. The increase in voting centers from past
elections allows greater access to citizens to vote. At the
same time, however, the huge number of election commissions
(approximately 20,000 sub-commissions, one per 400 voters
registered) raises the possibility of increased fraud or
inadvertent mistakes on the part of individual commissioners
or sub-commissions. With concerns about terrorism and
heightened tension in Yemen between political parties, the
military will maintain a strong presence. Accusations by
opposition parties in past elections that the military played
an intimidating and sometimes fraudulent role could make the
security presence a campaign and election-day issue.
HULL

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