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Cablegate: Sudanese Elections Face a Tight Timeine

VZCZCXRO2865
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #2011/01 3500941
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160941Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9578
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 002011

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, AF SE NATSIOS
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: SUDANESE ELECTIONS FACE A TIGHT TIMEINE

REF: (A) KHARTOUM 1971
(B)KHARTOUM 1834

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Negotiation on the national election law is
ongoing in the National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC). It
is unlikely that the draft law will be agreed upon and ratified this
month, pushing passage of the law until at least April 2008 when the
next parliamentary session begins. The delay means that the GNU and
GoSS will face a tight timeline in which to name a National
Electoral Commission (NEC) and for the Commission to prepare and
execute elections by the CPA-mandated July 2009 deadline. Although
neither the NCP nor the SPLM seem particularly concerned by the time
crunch, the international donor community has expressed concern that
the delayed legal framework could translate into a poorly managed
election. To mitigate this, donors have begun to prepare
election-financing mechanisms and plan electoral activities in
advance of the ratification of an electoral law. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Poloff met December 11 with NCP hardliner Dr. Mohamed Ahmed
Salim, a former Supreme Court Justice and Parliamentarian, and
current Registrar of Political Parties. Salim reported on progress
regarding the National Electoral Law and the status of Sudanese
political parties in relation to the newly-revised Political Parties
Act (passed in 1998, revised in January 2007).

Elections Law Stalled
---------------------

3. (U) According to Salim, the NCRC has finished 90 percent of the
draft national election law. After the draft is complete, it will
be sent to the Council of Ministers for approval and finally to the
GNU National Assembly for ratification. As it stands, the draft
contains the provision for a mixed electoral system. Sixty percent
of the 450 seats in the National Assembly will be determined by a
direct representation ("first past the post") system. Fifteen
percent of the seats will be determined by proportional
representation. The remaining 25 percent of seats will belong to
women; however the formula for electing these seats has not yet been
determined. Salim said the problem with a largely direct
representation system is that the National Assembly will turn out to
be composed of largely NCP and SPLM party members, leaving little
room for the representation of smaller parties.

4. (SBU) NOTE: Contacts from NCP and the SPLM have stated that
negotiation of the percentage of direct vs. proportional
representation is still ongoing in the NCRC. On 13 December,
Norwegian diplomats informed us that the Chairman of the SPLM caucus
in the National Assembly stated that the GNU is not looking to
create a special parliamentary session between January 2008 March
2008 to consider and ratify the national electoral law. The current
session ends in December 2007 and the following session opens in
April 2008. This means that the electoral law will be considered in
April 2008 at the earliest. END NOTE.

5. (SBU) Salim views lack of infrastructure as a major obstacle to
carrying out the elections. He then launched into doubts about the
SPLM being able to carry out "free and fair" elections in the South,
warning that SPLM members will intimidate Southern voters. He
rebuked the SPLM for branding itself a political party, stating that
a military group cannot transform itself into a political party in
such a short period of time (apparently ignoring the SPLM's 20 years
as a political, not just a rebel movement). He predicted violence in
the South during the electoral period.

6. (U) Salim called the census "a precondition" for the elections.
He described it as the only fair and accurate way to determine the
distribution of seats between states and designate constituencies.
When poloff asked Salim about the reason for and impact of the
delayed national census date, he claimed that the NCP has "taken all
necessary steps to conduct the census and elections on time,"
apparently putting the blame for delayed census mapping on the
South.

Revised Law on Political Parties
--------------------------------

7. (U) According to Salim, there are approximately 80 political
parties operating in Sudan. In 1998, the GoS passed the Political
Parties Act, which required parties to register with the Registrar
of Political Parties. So far, only 33 parties are registered, with
some notable exceptions - including the SPLM, UMMA, and the
Communist Party. The act, now in its third iteration, is
increasingly important in advance of 2009 elections because parties
that have not registered will not be able to participate in the
elections. The Act stipulates that a Political Parties Council,
composed of nine members to be nominated by the Presidency, will
replace the Registrar of Political Parties. According to Salim, the

KHARTOUM 00002011 002 OF 002


creation of this council has been delayed due to the political
impasse (now apparently resolved) between the SPLM and the NCP.
Upon the establishment of the Council, Salim said that parties will
legally have up to 90 days to register. The Act calls for parties
to have registered within 90 days of its passage; however Salim
indicated that it would be within 90 days of the Council's
establishment.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) COMMENT: The fact that 60 percent of the seats in the
National Assembly will be determined via a direct representation
system means that election boundaries will have to be drawn before
voter registration takes place, and the boundaries will be based on
the census. Last week, the Population Census Council (PCC) endorsed
a new date of April 15-30, 2008 for the census. If the election law
is ratified in its current form, a reasonably accurate census will
be one factor that is critical to ensuring that the elections are
fairly implemented.

9. (SBU) COMMENT CONTINUED: Wildly overdue by almost two years, the
national election law is a precursor for getting the GNU and the
GoSS moving on elections preparation. The CPA states that the
elections must take place by July 2009 (in the middle of the rainy
season in the South). If the GNU waits to pass the law until the
next planned session of parliament (April 2008), this will
complicate and delay election preparations. If the naming and
financing of the NEC comes together immediately after the elections
law is passed (not a sure thing given how slowly the census was
funded) the GNU and GoSS will be left with only 12 months for
elections preparation, voter registration, first round polling, and
potential run-off polling before the 2009 rainy season - an
incredibly tight timeline. Ideally the GNU should finalize
negotiations on the elections law immediately, and call a special
session of parliament to pass it.

10. (SBU) COMMENT CONTINUED: Lacking an electoral law and the NEC
electoral plan, no one can say how much funding is needed in 2008
and the donor community has been unable to plan their programs.
UNOPS estimated earlier this year that the total cost of elections
would be around USD$400-500 million. We understand the Carter
Center is the only entity so far that to receive an invitation to
participate in election observation (during President Carter's
October visit to Sudan). There is concern among international
donors that the GNU will refuse their support to the elections.

FERNANDEZ

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