Cablegate: Iraq Out-of-Country Voting Commission Racing

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




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. DAM 6166
B. DAM 6256
C. DAM 548

1. Summary: Members of the Independent Electoral Commission
of Iraq (IECI) explained details of out-of-country (OCV)
voting arrangements for Iraqis in Syria during a December 6
press conference in Damascus. Questions included queries
about Syrian-Iraq relations and the IECI's independence. The
Canadian Embassy has taken the lead on organizing
international election monitors. End summary.

2. More than 100 people attended a December 6 press
conference by IECI to elaborate on OCV arrangements (outlined
in refs a & b). According to the panel:

-- An 11th voting center, to be located in Aleppo, was added
to the list of ten others in Damascus.

-- There are 144,000 ballots allotted for Syria, although the
IECI has no idea of how many Iraqis will participate in the
December 13-15 voting. (Note: In the OCV elections held in
Syria this past January, fewer than 15,000 Iraqis voted, as
reported in ref c.)

-- The SARG is providing security for the IECI office in
Damascus and for voting centers on election days.

-- The SARG authorized the IECI's public campaign to
encourage Iraqis to vote. (Note: Posters have gone up
around Damascus in the last two days.)

-- IECI officials are explaining registration and voting
procedures to Iraqi citizens in predominately Iraqi
neighborhoods in Damascus.

-- Media and international observers will be present at
voting centers.

3. During the question-and-answer session, the British
editor of Syria Today magazine asked how Iraqi officials in
Baghdad could accuse Syria of interference in Iraq when the
SARG was cooperating with IECI officials on election
planning. Panel participants shrugged off the question,
responding that they had full cooperation from the SARG on
issues of concern. Another question raised the issue of the
IECI's independence, given that IECI officials described
their organization as a "daughter" of Iraq's government.
(Note: The non-partisan International Organization for
Migration organized out-of-country voting in January 2005.)

4. After the press conference, an IECI press officer
frantically pressed the handful of western diplomats present
to volunteer for monitoring duties by December 8. (Note:
While expressing his dismay over the lack of volunteers, the
IECI official noted he had only reached out to some
diplomatic missions in late November.) The Canadian Embassy
has hired consultant Hannah Roberts to serve as country
coordinator for international election monitors. Roberts
promised to provide the IECI a list of volunteers by COB
December 8.

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