Cablegate: Angola Reports Progress Towards Elections in 2008

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1. (SBU) Summary: During a briefing for the Diplomatic Corps,
Virgilio Fontes Pereira, the Minister of Territorial
Administration and head of the Interdepartmental Committee on
the Electoral Process (CIPE) suggested President Dos Santos
would announce the date for parliamentary elections by early
2008. Fontes Pereira added the long delayed pre-electoral
period allowed the GRA time to build confidence in Angola's
electoral process by ensuring the participation of opposition
parties early on and expanding lines of communication to the
country's rural areas, but acknowledged many Angolans
(especially the rural poor and uneducated) fear elections
will bring a return to civil war. A robust voter education
program, including the participation of local civil society,
could help counter these concerns. It will be difficult to
depoliticize voter education, however, given the MPLA's
strong grip on government institutions. End Summary.

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Elections in 2008 - No, Really, This Time We Mean It
--------------------------------------------- -------

2. (U) On October 11, the GRA briefed the diplomatic corps on
the recently completed registration process and next steps in
the run-up to parliamentary elections expected in 2008.
According to Fontes Pereira, the registration of 8.039
million voters over the ten-month registration period was
"credible, universal, and transparent." Fontes Pereira added
that the successful registration process had created
conditions which would allow the President to call for
parliamentary elections in 2008, most likely in
September-October. The Minister suggested President Dos
Santos would announce the date for parliamentary elections
during the first quarter of 2008 to allow the CIPE to conduct
a one-month supplemental registration period to register
voters who will turn 18 by election day.

It Was Worth the Wait

3. (U) Fontes Pereira described for diplomats the conditions
in Angola set against the GRA's 2004 decision to develop a
comprehensive voter administration system to support
parliamentary and presidential elections. He said post
conflict Angola had just emerged from nearly 30 years of
civil war. Roads were in poor condition, bridges had been
destroyed, and mine fields severed lines of communication.
The flow of refugees and the dislocation of community
settlements made identification of citizens and population
centers difficult. Many areas were inaccessible and
political dialogue was non-existent. Between 60-70 percent
of registered voters did not have an identification document.
Fontes Pereira said, "The stigma of the failures of Angola's
electoral system had to be overcome." In the minds of many,
especially older rural Angolans, elections equaled civil war.
He added that the GRA's registration brigades found pockets,
especially in rural areas, where residents did not know the
civil war was over.

4. (U) Fontes Perreira then outlined how the GRA began its
electoral process by demining lines of communication and
improving roads. Refugees started to return and key bridges
were replaced. The government began reaching out to citizens
to build confidence in state institutions. The GRA fostered
an inclusive dialogue with political parties to develop a new
law for elections, ensuring political parties participated in
every decision. When the parties asked for more time for
consultations or registration, it was given. NGOs and civil
society reviewed and monitored the GRA's progress. Efforts
toward peace and democracty in Angola have failed, Fontes
Pereira said, because UNITA leaders did not believe their
rural supporters were properly included in the process. This
time, he said, GRA registration brigades had access to all
parts of the country and identified areas where low
registration figures required increased attention. The
quality of the work done over the past 3 years by the
combined efforts of all stakeholders, concluded Fontes
Pereira, is reflected in the successful registration of over
8 million Angolans.

Comment - Next Steps

5. (SBU) Angola's successful completion of voter registration
is an important step forward in eventual elections. while
many doubted 2008 elections a few months ago, it seems that
the current conventional wisdom is that legislative elections
will take place in 2008. There still is a long road ahead,
however, especially in convincing many voters that an

LUANDA 00001049 002.2 OF 002

election will not mean another descent into civil war. Urban
Angolans are calling for an election, but rural voters are
still suspicious. It was the perceived disenfranchisement of
rural voters that many credit as the root case for the civil
war starting up again after the last elections, and no one
wants to repeat that. As a result, voter and civic education
must be a high priority for the GRA, local civil society, and
international partners. While they agree with the need for
greater voter education, opposition groups worry that the
MPLA. who has control of many of the institutions that would
be involved in government civic education efforts, will use
these activities to spread its political branding and
message. We still have a long way to go towards elections,
however, and continued and strengthened engagement both
bilaterally and through regional and international groups is
needed to help keep the process moving forward.

© Scoop Media

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