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Cablegate: Anbar Geo Holds Pre-Election Town Hall Meeting

VZCZCXRO3768
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #3871/01 3461355
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111355Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0798
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 003871

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV IZ
SUBJECT: ANBAR GEO HOLDS PRE-ELECTION TOWN HALL MEETING

This message is Sensitive but Unclassified; handle
accordingly. Not for distribution on the Internet.

1. (U) This is a PRT Anbar reporting cable.

2. (U) SUMMARY: Political leaders, candidates, and local
notables attended a pre-election town hall meeting led by the
Governorate Electoral Office (GEO) in Ramadi on December 4.
The GEO called the meeting to discuss the rules and
responsibilities of each entity during the campaign and on
election day. GEO officials also described the security of
the polling stations and ballot boxes. One indicator of
Anbar's improved security: no one brought up concerns about
insurgent-led violence. END SUMMARY.

Establishing the Rules
----------------------

3. (U) Nearly a hundred political leaders, candidates and
notables assembled on December 4 at the Anbar Government
Center in Ramadi for a pre-elections town-hall meeting.
Khalid Rajab, the director of the Anbar Governorate Electoral
Office (GEO), led a two-hour discussion in which he and other
GEO officials described the roles and responsibilities of the
political entities, observers and party agents for the
January 31 provincial elections.

4. (U) Khalid assured the assembly that the election will be
transparent and that his office will not tolerate forgery and
mud-slinging. He urged candidates to campaign with gusto.
He also reminded them that the campaign will be governed by
Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) rules:
candidates will not be allowed to use government vehicles,
mosques or schools for campaigning; all parties need to
refrain from election violence and respect others' opinions
in the campaign. Khalid added that any grievances should be
adjudicated through the legal process.

Manning the polling stations
----------------------------

5. (U) Khalid described the responsibilities of the
registered party agents, who will staff election centers and
who will be authorized to register complaints. A committee
comprised of IHEC lawyers would then adjudicate them. Two
election observers trained under IHEC guidelines will man
each ballot station. Although they cannot make official
complaints, they will be able to bring discrepancies to the
attention of poll workers and the media. According to
Khalid, Iraqi police will provide security outside the
polling centers, and a vehicle curfew will be imposed the day
of the elections and the day before.

A Complex Ballot
----------------

6. (U) Other GEO officials reviewed the election's ballot
form by projecting an illustration of one onto a screen, and
discussed the complex procedure of counting ballots and
awarding seats. According to the formula set by the
Elections Law, Anbar's new Provincial Council will be
comprised of 29 seats, fewer than the current 48 seats. The
complexity of the ballot caused some confusion among the
attendees. Wrapping up that discussion, one GEO official
described a voter education campaign of workshops aimed at
women, youth, religious and tribal audiences.

Ballot Boxes and Warehouse Works
--------------------------------

7. (SBU) A week prior to the conference, Khalid showed off to
PRT and MNF-W staff the new operations center inside his
Ramadi office. The center will be open on elections day to
oversee the movement of ballot boxes and to coordinate any
emergency response. It will be manned by the GEO director, a
judge and liaisons to the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police and CF's.


8. (SBU) Afterward, PRT and MNF-W staff toured the planned
holding area for the ballot boxes at the GEO warehouse.
Boxes are expected to arrive within two weeks of the election
and will be transported by IHEC officials with an Iraqi Army
Qand will be transported by IHEC officials with an Iraqi Army
escort. Ballots will not return to the warehouse until votes
have been counted and the results called into the GEO
operations center. GEO officials will keep watch inside the
warehouse. Iraqi police will secure the area around the
warehouse but not inside.

Comment
-------

9. (U) Three hundred and sixty thousand Anbaris participated
in the voter registration update, a good proportion of total

BAGHDAD 00003871 002 OF 002


eligible voters. This figure alone is nearly 100 times the
number of citizens who cast ballots in the boycotted 2005
national elections. Fifty-six political entities are
registered. These indicators, along with the well-attended
town-hall meeting, point to a broad public participation.
One noteworthy fact: at the town-hall, no attendee raised a
concern about election-related insurgent violence, which
quietly underscores the progress made locally on the security
front.

CROCKER

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