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Cablegate: Haiti Elections Update - June 2

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PORT AU PRINCE 001537

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM KPAO HA
SUBJECT: Haiti elections update - June 2

Ref: State 101620

1. (U) Summary: Voter registration continues to lag, but
MINUSTAH and OAS are making a big push to get a
significantly increased number of registration centers up
and running within the next 7-10 days, and believe they are
still on track for a successful registration program. The
CEP's website is functioning and the OAS will begin informal
email updates on registration numbers in the coming days.
The CEP is hoping to finalize a slightly revised elections
calendar (extending the registration period by 9 days); the
IGOH will need to publish it as a decree, along with the
decree needed to formalize the voter registration card as a
national identity card. A publicity campaign in support of
registration has finally been launched, and USAID and PD are
supporting it with their programming. Political parties
continue to prepare for elections, with one new Presidential
candidate announced. End summary.

2. (U) For the first time in several weeks, the donor group
on elections met with nearly the entire CEP May 31 and
received updates on several key elections issues.
PolCounselor and USAID elections coordinator met
subsequently with MINUSTAH and OAS elections officials June
1. Updates on several key issues including from those
discussions follow below, as well as on a few elections-
related events.

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Registration process
--------------------

3. (U) This remains a source of great concern to us, and
took up much of the three-hour donors meeting. As of June
1, only 17 registration sites (of 424 planned) have been
opened, and slightly over 80,000 voters have been registered
nationally. Where centers are open, the registration
process has gone smoothly and by all accounts voters are
showing significant interest in registering. The problem is
the serious shortage of open registration centers. OAS
elections chief Spehar and MINUSTAH elections chief
LeChevallier outlined a series of steps to be taken in the
coming days to address this. First, OAS has already
increased the capacity of the open sites to accelerate
registration there, and has begun sending out close to
thirty mobile registration teams in different parts of the
country. More importantly, they are working to get more
centers open, focusing on both privately owned buildings,
churches, schools, and public facilities.

4. (SBU) LeChevallier told us that the CEP has within the
last week finalized contracts with private property owners
for approximately 100 new sites around the country. UNOPS
has been working to refurbish them (several are finished
already) and within the next 7-10 days the sites will be
turned over to OAS, which will install the necessary
equipment and personnel and begin operations. Separately,
MINUSTAH has been pressuring the Prime Minister to put at
the CEP's disposal more government facilities, e.g. mayor's
offices, to use as registration sites. LeChevallier told us
June 1 that he was confident that at least half of the
planned 424 registration centers would be up and running by
June 15, and the remaining sites by June 30.

5. (U) Spehar noted that registration capacity would
increase gradually over the month of June, and thought that
they could reach 250,000-300,000 by the end of the month. At
maximum capacity, which the OAS/CEP would reach once all the
centers are open, they can register 60,000-70,000 persons
per day. Even if this maximum capacity were not reached
until July 1, this would still leave 40 days (until August
9, the revised date for closing registration - see below),
meaning they could realistically reach 3 million registered
voters out of the 4.4 million estimated. This was still
less than desirable, but both she and LeChevallier firmly
stated that this was a reasonable target.

6. (SBU) Comment: The UN, OAS, and CEP appear to finally be seized with the needed urgency and are focusing intently on getting registration sites open. This has been helped by the pressure brought to bear by the international community since mid-May and by the Prime Minister's recent engagement with the CEP (he has had several meetings with the CEP, MINUSTAH, and OAS together). We remain concerned that even a best-case scenario (rare here) leaves us well short of full registration. At the moment, many CEP members, as well as LeChevallier and Spehar, are looking carefully at the possibility of moving back the local elections date by a week or two in order to accommodate a longer registration period. This would require a revision to the electoral law, however.

Information flow
----------------

7. (U) PolCounselor asked Spehar for more frequent
information updates on the number of voters registered,
centers opened, etc., noting the intense interest in
Washington in remaining as up to date as possible on the
overall elections process. Spehar said the OAS was
consciously letting the CEP itself be out in front on
information dissemination, as part of the effort to make the
CEP the principal entity responsible for the elections. She
said the CEP website (http://www.cep-ht.org/statistic.html)
is being updated weekly (usually on Fridays) with
registration statistics, but agreed to provide more frequent
information updates to Embassy personnel and other
interested persons, including in Washington. (Note: The
CEP's website includes a section on registration, with
information on number of registered voters and breakdowns by
department, age, and other factors. We will provide Spehar
with email addresses of members of the sub-PCC on Democracy
to enable Washington readers to receive unofficial twice-
weekly updates. Those should start early next week.

Elections calendar
---------------------

8. (U) CEP member Duchemin told donors that the CEP intended
to finalize an electoral calendar by Friday June 3 which
would be submitted to the government for publication as a
decree. Although he (and other CEP members) frankly
acknowledged it would be a challenge to hold to the original
timetable, he stressed that no decisions had been taken to
change the calendar. For the CEP, the most important date
was the installation of a new President by February 7, 2006.
Currently, the CEP was considering the following calendar:

Aug 9 - registration ends (an extension of the original plan
to end July 31). Candidate registration officially opens.

Aug 16 - finalize voter lists, both global and by electoral
district.

Aug 26 -- Candidate registration closes.

Sep 9 -- Period for appealing and resolving candidate
registration disputes ends.

Sep 12 - final candidate lists published and sent to ballot
printing. Campaign begins.

Oct 9 - local elections held.

Nov 13 - first round of parliamentary and presidential
elections held.

Dec 18 -- second round of parliamentary and presidential
elections held.

Civic education
---------------

9. (U) The public information campaign in support of
registration finally began in earnest May 22. We have been
hearing frequent radio spots over the last ten days, urging
Haitians to register. The campaign is being directed by the
Haitian PR consortium MEDIACOM-CHP-PROCOM, which won a
contract overseen by MINUSTAH in mid-May. The contract
calls for a total of nearly 15,000 radio spots per month,
distributed among approximately 100 public and private radio
stations in the capital and in several provincial capital.
Absent from the MINUSTAH briefing on this was any
description of the content of the spots, but from what we
have heard they are straightforward exhortations to
register. A separate element of the campaign is the
diffusion of small, well-produced Creole-language brochures
outlining the advantages for citizens of having a voter
registration/national identify card and showing how the
registration process works.

10. (U) Note: USAID and PD are coordinating with MINUSTAH
and the CEP to implement a public communications strategy in
support of the electoral process, drawing on FY 05 ESF and
PD funds.

Budget
------

11. (U) LeChevallier distributed an up-to-date budget
document showing expenditures to date and confirming the
anticipated budget shortfall of $22,456,156. (Budget
document has been forwarded to WHA/CAR.) PolCounselor took
advantage of the opportunity to announce to other donors and
the CEP that the U.S. had decided to contribute an
additional $8 million to help cover the shortfall. $2.8
million of that was immediately available and would be
provided directly to the OAS to help cover the registration
portion of the shortage; the remaining $5.2 million would
come available later in the summer and would be provided to
the UNDP-managed elections fund. PolCounselor also noted we
would make an appeal to other donors in capitals to help
fill the gap (reftel).

Legal framework still lacking
-----------------------------

12. (SBU) The IGOH still needs to issue two decrees of
critical importance to the process. The first is the
official electoral timetable, a proposal for which as noted
above the CEP has said it will submit by June 3. The second
is a decree establishing the voter registration card as an
official identify card for the full range of state services
and purposes. Although there is widespread consensus in
favor of this, and in fact the voter registration campaign
is already touting the broader benefits to registering,
technically the card has no legality until the IGOH adopts
the decree. LeChevallier complained June 1 that the draft
decree, which was submitted by the CEP (ghostwritten by
MINUSTAH) several weeks ago, has been held up in the Council
of Ministers by Justice Minister Gousse, who has been
insisting on what LeChevallier called "unhelpful changes."
LeChevallier also noted he remains concerned about several
problematic clauses in the basic electoral degree concerning
the electoral dispute appeals process and other issues.

International observers
-----------------------

13. (U) Donors briefly discussed and agreed to follow up at
their next meeting the question of establishing a
coordination mechanism for the many international observers
likely to come for the elections themselves. Informally,
some of our colleagues have suggested that the EU might be
appropriate to serve in a "lead nation" role as coordinator,
especially since, given their involvement in organizing the
elections, the UN and OAS would have an apparent conflict of
interest. The Canadian embassy distributed copies of the
assessment mission for international observers conducted in
April by David Lee and Andre Bouchard. Lee and Bouchard
suggest the possibility of creating an ad hoc international
consortium to coordinate observers who would likely come
from several donor and troop-contributing countries,
CARICOM, the African Union, the EU, and the Organization of
Francophonie.

Women's group hosts political parties
-------------------------------------

14. (U) A local women's organization, Famn Yo La, hosted a
three-day seminar for political parties May 30-June 1 in
Port-au-Prince. The seminar was funded by Post's public
diplomacy section and the UN women's rights organ UNIFEM and
was well attended by most major political parties in Port-au-
Prince. Leaders and other representatives from twenty-five
parties, including among others KID, MODEREH, MIDH, Fanmi
Lavalas, and FRN, presented their party's ideology and
addressed the importance of women's participation in the
political process.

Another Presidential candidate
------------------------------

15. (U) The conservative coalition Grand Front Centre Droit
(Great Center-Right Front) held its national conference in
Petit-Goave on May 29 and officially nominated party leader
Hubert Deronceray as presidential candidate. Deronceray
(sometimes spelled De Ronceray) is a strong supporter of re-
establishing the Haitian army, and a vocal critic of
Lavalas.

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