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Cablegate: Iec Scrambling Towards Voter Registration Opening

VZCZCXRO7672
PP RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #2575/01 2650612
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 210612Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5575
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 002575

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/FO, SCA/A, S/CRS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR MCCGRAW
CG CJTF-101, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV MASS AF
SUBJECT: IEC SCRAMBLING TOWARDS VOTER REGISTRATION OPENING
DAY

REF: A. KABUL 2551
B. KABUL 2387

1. (SBU) Summary. Two weeks before the first phase of voter
registration opens on October 6 in 14 provinces, the
Independent Elections Commission (IEC) is scrambling. Its
field operations are up and running but hobbled by the still
slow delivery of key equipment and supplies in some areas,
including generators, vehicles, IT equipment, furniture and
registration forms. The voter education and outreach
program, which includes a media campaign, as well as
individual programs designed by local civic educators, mosque
sermons, SMS messaging and small grants to NGOs, begins
September 21. Security planning is underway but slow. ISAF,
however, has made it clear it is prepared to do whatever is
necessary to support the police on voter registration
security. The IEC and security agencies will test their
emergency response capabilities September 24.

IEC FIELD OPERATIONS MAKING DO

2. (SBU) As noted in Ref A, Provincial Electoral Officers
(PEOs) in the Phase I provinces are recruiting staff,
coordinating with local security forces, and organizing for
voter outreach. The challenges enumerated by Logar PEO Fazly
are typical: low pay and uncertain security slows staff
recruitment, limited transportation decreases election
workers' efficiency, inadequate office space and equipment
limits progress and makes communication with IEC headquarters
more difficult. In Logar, Wardak, Nuristan, Kunar, and
Ghazni some IEC officials have received threats and "night
letters" and, as a result, some staff have resigned in Logar,
Wardak, and Ghazni. The IEC is not sure how it will fill
these gaps. Civic education and mobile registration teams
appear particularly vulnerable to future security threats;
they will travel in unmarked vehicles without security
escorts and, if threatened, are instructed to contact the
local police.

3. (SBU) In Bamyan, Ghazni, Kapisa, and Parwan, the PEOs are
making last minute adjustments to site locations, affecting
the operational and security plans. UNDP on September 18
requested Afghan National Army (ANA) and ISAF air lift to
Ghowr and Dai-Kundi provinces to ensure delivery of key
materials in time for Phase I registration on October 6. The
UN continues to fill its technical advisor positions; this is
a gradual process as there is a limited pool of qualified
personnel. In fact, the UN is experiencing a steadily
building sense of urgency as it works to address challenges
posed by organizational and operational bureaucracy,
compressed timelines, recruitment of staff, and IEC delays in
decision-making. Nonetheless, the UN remains confident it
can successfully navigate these obstacles to keep the overall
process on track.

PUBLIC OUTREACH STARTS SEPT 21

4. (SBU) The IEC has trained some 1,500 local civic
educators, who will begin to meet with voters in small groups
and at community events beginning September 21, two weeks
before Phase I registration opens. On the same date, the IEC
will launch its diverse media campaign, which will use mobile
phone SMS messaging, a call-in hot line, documentaries,
interviews, television, radio, newspapers, and billboards.
The wildly popular Afghan Olympic Tae Kwon Do champion,
Rohullah Nikpai, features prominently in the campaign,
including billboard, TV and radio spots. Separate campaigns
target youth, women, disabled persons and the homebound. The
IEC will reach out to voters who already possess a card as
well, using the slogans "Found it!" and "I have it!" to
discourage such voters from trying to re-register.

SECURITY PLANS ALMOST COMPLETE

5. (SBU) The regional police, army, and ISAF commands will
present their security plans to the combined commanders
beginning September 20 and ending October 13, leaving scant

KABUL 00002575 002 OF 002


margin for error or adjustment. (Additionally, there is no
current plan for RC-West or 205th Corps to conduct brief
backs; Ghowr is in RC-West and is in Phase I of voter
registration.) The IEC and the security agencies will
jointly test their emergency response capabilities in a
headquarters exercise on September 24. The police appear to
be using the urgency to launch on voter registration security
to angle for additional communications equipment. Police
training for voter registration will be limited to a
still-pending draft code-of-conduct manual. As reported Ref
B, the ANA is underenthusiastic about its role in voter
registration security responsibilities. COMISAF has made it
clear that ISAF is prepared to do whatever is necessary to
support the Afghan Ministry of the Interior as the lead in
Voter Registration Security.

WHAT WILL SUCCESS LOOK LIKE?

6. (SBU) The measure of success for this voter registration
update process will not be a statistic - a certain, magic
number of new voters added to rolls. There will be mistakes,
imperfections, and perhaps some irregularities. The IEC
expects that, at least in the beginning, its centers will
enroll a relatively low number of new registrants, as people
are pre-occupied with more immediate concerns like
unemployment and security than a still-distant election day.
Data on the number of voters who need to register is
extremely shaky, and the IEC is working with rough estimates.
If registration does prove slow, the IEC will leave the
district centers open 30 days longer after each phase, or
reopen registration in provincial capitals two months prior
to election day.

7. (SBU) There will also be continued security threats, and
there may be some violence. The IEC's resolve is firm (Ref
B.) Against stiff odds, the measure of success will be how
ordinary the process can be - that after years of war and
amid an ongoing struggle for peace, Afghan citizens can queue
up, fill in a form, and have a say in their future.

DELL

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