Cablegate: Pdas Liz Cheney's September 28 Meeting with Gamal
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 007782
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/11/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM EG
SUBJECT: PDAS LIZ CHENEY'S SEPTEMBER 28 MEETING WITH GAMAL
Classified by DCM Stuart Jones for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) In a September 28 meeting with PDAS Elizabeth
Cheney, Gamal Mubarak, head of the NDP Policies Committee,
reviewed his father's presidential election campaign, which
he argued had been a major success. He also reviewed the
ruling party's preparations for the upcoming parliamentary
elections. PDAS Cheney reminded Gamal of the paramount
importance that the USG places on international monitoring
and urged him to use his influence to encourage the GOE/NDP
to undertake other concrete improvements in the electoral
process. Significant improvements in the parliamentary
elections, the PDAS noted, would be crucial to continuing
Egypt's democratic reform progress. End summary.
The NDP's Campaign Architect Reviews His Creation
2. (C) PDAS Cheney, joined by DAS Carpenter, Charge, and
poloff (notetaker) met with Gamal Mubarak on September 28 to
discuss Egypt's political reform progress. Gamal opened the
meeting with questions about Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
PDAS Cheney updated Gamal on cleanup and recovery efforts and
thanked him for GOE relief supplies. The Charge noted that
Washington had been gratified by the speed of the GOE airlift
to supply water, blankets, and other items.
3. (C) Turning to the September 7 presidential election,
Gamal noted that he and his NDP colleagues had been working
on the campaign since the end of June, when President Mubarak
had indicated that "he wanted a proper campaign team." Gamal
said the team, which included Ahmad Ezz and Mohammad Kamal,
used focus groups and polling to fine tune the President's
message. After the campaign team devised a "credible
program," which the NDP "simplified" to address focus group
concerns, the party used the campaign period (August
17-September 3) to reach out to voters.
4. (C) Gamal noted that his father had directed the party
to "run a positive campaign," and to respond only to attacks
that misrepresented policy. Gamal attributed the NDP's
success to a packed schedule of campaign events (nearly one
major event per day) along with DVC outreach to provincial
party leaders, and personal letters from the President to
each of the party's 7000 "basic unit leaders" (i.e., precinct
bosses). According to Gamal, the precinct bosses were
"absolutely crucial" and the "backbone" of an effort to "fire
up" youthful NDP voters. In response to a question by the
PDAS, Gamal said that his father had much enjoyed the
"intensity" of the campaign as well as his engagement with
party activists. Gamal said that the final event of the
campaign, the closing rally at Abdeen Palace in Cairo, had
been a "big success," since it linked the President to key
episodes in Egyptian historical memory.
5. (C) The PDAS noted the USG's continuing encouragement of
the GOE to invite international observers, and pressed Gamal
to identify areas that he though could be improved in future
elections. Gamal described Egypt's outdated and incoherent
voter lists as "not a huge issue," but noted that cleaning
them up would be a long-term project. He blamed the low
turnout of the presidential election (about 7 million voters
or 23 percent) on overzealous judges supervising the
September 7 ballot who had, allegedly, refused to allow more
than one voter at a time into polling stations, and thereby
diminished turnout. "We were aiming for at least nine
million voters, but many people went home without voting
because of the queues," Gamal said.
6. (C) Gamal termed the controversy over domestic observers
on election day as "a huge mess," and noted that the party
had tried to play a constructive role on this issue, behind
the scenes, despite the obstructionism of the Presidential
Election Commission and some of the judges. The PDAS
reiterated the USG's views on international monitors and
urged him to use his influence in support of both
international and domestic monitors.
Plans for the Parliamentary Elections
7. (C) Turning to the parliamentary elections, which will
be held in three stages beginning on November 8, Gamal said
that a central difference with the presidential campaign
would be that campaigning for the 444 parliamentary races
"would be the party's effort, not the President's." The
President plans to campaign on behalf of some candidates,
however and the Party plans to use the same Heliopolis
campaign headquarters and core team, although this team will
be "adjusted for the battle."
8. (C) The PDAS asked how the party plans to select its
candidates. Gamal noted that the party's selection process
hadn't worked in the past, since it permitted candidates with
deep pockets to win the party endorsement even if they were
not able to win at the polls. (Note: In the 2000 elections,
official NDP candidates won less than 40 percent of the
seats. Most winners were so-called "NDP independents" who
had not managed to secure the party's endorsement but
nevertheless prevailed at the poll and eventually rejoined
the party, thereby giving the NDP its lock on Parliament.
9. (C) Gamal provided an overview of the new process. He
said that the party would hold "primaries" during the first
week of October, which would assemble precinct bosses and
other grass roots leaders to bet potential candidates. Gamal
said that in addition to this popularity contest, the party
would use polling, analysis of the voting in the presidential
election, and a "software" analysis to create a single
consolidated party slate of candidates.
But How Will They Be Better than Last Time?
10. (C) Gamal said that the parliamentary elections would
be "both messier and easier" than the presidential election.
The PDAS pressed Gamal to suggest steps that the GOE could
take in the next few weeks to demonstrate its commitment to
political reform. In response to the PDAS's inquiry about
the GOE utilizing transparent ballot boxes in place of the
existing wooden boxes, Gamal described them as "cosmetic."
For Egypt, he said, the key is judicial supervision. Gamal
also dismissed alleged problems with indelible ink, multiple
voting, and voting by unregistered citizens. All of these
allegations, he said, were "unfounded."
11. (C) More important, he argued had been the information
deficit. Voters had sometimes not known which polling
stations to report to, and the lists of registered voters had
not been widely available ahead of time. Improving the
available information about the polling station locations and
access was Gamal's highest priority. "If I was in charge,"
he said, "this is what I'd do."
12. (C) The PDAS ask Gamal about the period after the
parliamentary election. He replied that Egypt's unregistered
voters were now excited about politics and enthusiastic to
register to vote in future elections, when the registration
period opens in late 2005. The PDAS asked if any opposition
party would get the five percent of the parliamentary seats
need to field a future presidential candidate. Gamal
shrugged and replied that this would depend on the opposition
parties' organization and discipline. Might the GOE revise
Article 76 again, the PDAS asked, if an opposition party
failed to get the required five percent? Gamal replied that
talk of additional modification of Article 76 was premature:
"the ink is not yet dry," he said.
13. (C) He also argued that the special candidacy rules in
2005, to encourage multiple presidential candidates, could
not be extended in future elections. The somewhat less
restrictive rules for 2005 had been necessary, he said, as an
incentive to the parties to "get their acts together." In
the long term, however, encouragement of fringe candidates
who do not have significant parliamentary representation
would be a recipe for "chaos."
14. (C) The PDAS sought Gamal's views on rumors that the
President plans to appoint a vice president. Gamal professed
ignorance on the subject. Should the President appoint a VP,
the PDAS asked. Gamal paused for a moment then said some
people argue the President should name a Vice President,
while others say that the new amendment to the Constitution
makes a vice president unnecessary. Gamal said, "I listen to
A Man in Full?
15. (C) At Gamal's invitation, the PDAS and DAS later
attended the gala reception on September 29 hosted by the NDP
for the diplomatic corps on the occasion of the party's
annual conference. Members of the diplomatic corps,
including the Iranian Ambassador, gathered around Gamal vying
for his attention and the opportunity to shake his hand.
Party old-guard figures Kemal al-Shazli and Safwat Sherif
stood together off to the side while Gamal was clearly the
center of the show. Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Maghrabi,
told the PDAS that members of the new guard received loud and
prolonged applause whenever they took the podium at the party
congress. The reception for old guard figures, by contrast,
was muted and polite. Judging from this, Maghrabi said, "I
don,t think the old guard will be with us much longer."
16. (U) PDAS Cheney cleared this message.