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Cablegate: International Election Observation Begins With

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #1331/01 2341709
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221709Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7229
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS PRIORITY 4496
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO PRIORITY 2146
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 3359
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 5752
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT PRIORITY 3538
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 4722
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS PRIORITY 9361
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA PRIORITY 3365
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0713

UNCLAS RABAT 001331

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG, NEA/PI, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM MO
SUBJECT: INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVATION BEGINS WITH
SUCCESSFUL PRE-ASSESSMENT

REF: RABAT 1249

This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: The organization of Morocco,s first-ever
international election observation kicked off with a
week-long pre-election assessment mission organized by the
National Democratic Institute (NDI). In meetings with
embassy and an August 15 press conference, the delegation
recognized positive developments in the electoral
environment, but noted several concerns, including declining
public confidence in political institutions and recent
challenges to press freedoms. They noted the need for
transparent reporting of election results, which now may be
addressed by a German-funded NGO focused on that part of the
process. The assessors also urged the GOM to provide formal
credentials and clear guidance to election officials on the
role of observers; the absence of such has been complicated
since the Human Rights Consultative Council (CCDH) is the GOM
lead, with the Interior Ministry clearly on board, but
abjuring any formal, documentary verification. POL followed
up with MOI elections chief who assured us that CCDH has all
the needed authorities. Japan, Canada, the Netherlands also
have signed up to join the 40-50 international observers
expected September 3-10. Despite some initial problems, the
productive visit of the assessment mission appears to bode
well for a successful observation. End Summary.

2. (U) From August 8-15, a MEPI-funded international
pre-election assessment team, organized by NDI, visited
Morocco to examine the political environment surrounding the
September 7 legislative ballot. The team was briefed by
Ambassador Riley on August 10, including information on USG
support for the elector effort. The team met with government
officials, election authorities, political party leaders,
civil society actors, and media. The delegation wrapped up
their visit with a press conference, and released a report
outlining their findings accompanied by a comprehensive list
of recommendations for Moroccan authorities and political
parties.

3. (U) At their August 15 press conference and previously in
meetings with embassy, the five-member team, led by Irish
Senator Frances Fitzgerald, highlighted a number of recent
positive developments in the electoral environment:
issue-based campaigning, incorporation of voter interests
into party platforms, aggressive voter registration and civic
education efforts, and impressive administrative election
preparations on the part of the GOM. The upcoming elections
offer an important opportunity to deepen the process of
democratization in Morocco, they said.

4. (U) The delegation also noted the evident and potentially
alarming trend of declining confidence in political
institutions, which has made turnout a major issue. Given
the mechanics of the electoral law, and gerrymandering
earlier in the year, there could also be a significant
disconnect between the popular vote totals by political
parties and their resulting representation in parliament,
they explained. Recent challenges to press freedoms were
also a concern. They suggested that after the election, the
ensuing government and parliament should be given additional
capacities to increase citizen investment in Morocco's
democratic development. They expect the full observation
mission may elaborate on these recommendations in its
post-election final report.

5. (U) The team's principal recommendations included:
impartial enforcement of campaigning regulations, free and
fair access to the media and campaigning, and publication of
official election results in a timely and transparent manner.
Concerning the planned international observation, they asked
for clear guidelines from the government to local polling
stations concerning the prerogatives of international and
domestic observers, and universally recognized credentials
for observers to help ensure appropriate access. CCDH has
undertaken to provide this, but something formal from MOI
would be reassuring.

6. (U) On August 15, before the press conference, delegation
members met with the UNDP and local donor community to share
their impressions and analysis of the week-long mission. The
credibility of Morocco,s election will rest on the rate of
voter participation and this is understood across the board,
they said. Despite allegations of vote buying and other
improper campaigning techniques, the team does not anticipate
flagrant irregularities on Election Day. The delegation also
stressed the important role that political party observers
play in the overall credibility of elections, and reported
that most major parties have structures in place to cover a
large percentage of the county's polling stations. In total,
there will be over 35,000 polling stations throughout Morocco
on September 7.

7. (U) Our German colleagues told the meeting that the
Democracy Reporting International (DRI) project discussed
reftel has been fully supported and funded by the German
Foreign Ministry. At the moment it appears that DRI, in
close coordination with NDI, will send out 2 experts from
September 1-14 to participate in the monitoring of the vote
count and publication of results. UNDP also reports that it
has received authorization to fund CCDH's evaluation
component. In addition to the Canadians, Dutch, and Irish,
Japan has also confirmed their intention to contribute to the
NDI international election observation mission, which will
visit Morocco from 3-10 September at the invitation of the
CCDH. NDI is still working on its roster of potential
observers, but it already has technical staff in place
preparing for the logistics and other aspects of observer
deployment.

8. (U) On August 10, following our initial contact with the
assessment mission, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Staffer Perry Cammack and Polcouns heard from MOI Director of
Elections Hassan Aghmari that a decree or other formal
published instructions allowing election observers to enter
polling and counting stations was not needed, nor would it be
legal. In this instance, the King, in his statutory role as
Head of State, empowered the CCDH to coordinate monitoring
and set procedures and rules. He tasked the MOI with
implementing the CCDH's instructions - which Aghmari said it
has done. Despite the absence of written permission,
monitors would experience no obstacles, he said. All members
and levels of the electoral system have received explicit
instructions from the MOI and will cooperate with the
observation effort. As an added measure, the MOI has set up
a hotline for people to report voting issues. Unlike
elections in Morocco's not-to-distant past, the MOI is no
longer an "active participant," but an impartial facilitator.
We nevertheless urged MOI to publish or provide the
observers/CCDH with some written authorization or at least a
copy of its written instructions to election officials.

-------
Comment
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9. (SBU) Press coverage to date has cast the assessment
team's visit and report in a positive light, reflecting the
common view we hear from contacts around the country that
international observers are welcomed and favorable for
Morocco,s international image. Despite initial
foot-dragging by the MOI, the ease in which the assessment
mission operated during its week-long mission appears to bode
well for the international observation mission. End Comment.


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