Cablegate: S/Srap Holbrooke's Aug 22 Meeting with Srsg Kai

DE RUEHBUL #2523 2370926
P 250926Z AUG 09 ZDK

C O N F I D E N T I A L KABUL 002523


EO 12958 DECL: 08/25/2019

Classified By: Amb. Timothy M. Carney for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary. Ambassadors Holbrooke, Eikenberry, and Ricciardone discussed post-election day scenarios with SRSG Kai Eide, DSRSG Galbraith, and UNDP two days after election day. They agreed that candidates would most likely use rationales of fraud and Pashtun disenfranchisement to discredit the outcome of elections. UNDP’s Margie Cook expressed confidence the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) could together effectively detect fraud and invalidate ballots where necessary. Participants agreed that the IEC, UN, and international partners should all strive to remain silent when it came to predictions or probabilities of various outcomes. There was shared concern about the specter of a disgruntled candidate preemptively declaring victory and sparking civil unrest. End Summary.

2. (C) On August 22, Ambassadors Eikenberry, Holbrooke, and Ricciardone met with UNAMA SRSG Kai Eide, DSRSG Peter Galbraith, and UNDP Chief Electoral Advisor Margie Cook. The focus of the meeting was scenario planning for the outcome of the election results. Principals exchanged views on the outcomes that were likely in terms of the two key candidates. They noted that the two rationales that would likely be used by the leading candidate camps to challenge the legitimacy of the elections would be fraud and the disenfranchisement of Pashtuns. While there are various accounts of voter turnout in Pashtun areas, the general view is that the numbers were far lower than in the rest of the country.

3. (C) S/SRAP Holbrooke, evaluating the prospect of the election being stolen through fraudulent behavior, expressed concern that this would undermine the legitimacy of the government and paralyze it from carrying out the priorities the government urgently needs to address. Ms. Cook noted that fraud had already been detected, including in the Pul-e-Charkhi area of Kabul where ballot boxes had been stuffed days before the elections. UNDP and IEC have already decided to nullify these ballots, she reported. She expected fraud occurred in a number of insecure areas of the country. Ms. Cook reassured the group that there were seven different trigger points in the IEC’s tally process to detect fraud and expressed confidence that this process could quarantine and make void fraudulent ballots, even those from insecure areas. She expressed confidence that the ECC would have the will to disqualify a large percentage of votes, even if there would be significant political consequences.

4. (C) The principals agreed that it was important not to say anything publicly about the probability of either Hamid Karzai or Abdullah Abdullah securing the “50 plus one” percentage of votes necessary for a first round win. There was general concern about one of the campaigns preemptively declaring victory and potentially setting off a chain of disruptive events as witnessed in Iran, Kenya, or Zimbabwe. There was particular concern that one of the candidate’s supporters might orchestrate protests and unrest in the major provincial centers. There was concurrence about the importance of stressing to all of the major candidates that they should not make announcements claiming victory until the results were announced by the IEC and that they would respect the process. Ambassador Holbrooke noted that he would stress this point with all three candidates.

5. (C) The meeting participants also agreed that it was important to ensure the Chairperson of the IEC not make any predictions about the outcome of the elections until the preliminary results were announced. It was agreed that Ambassador (Ret.) Tim Carney would visit Dr. Ludin to reinforce the point that he should stay on message for the sake of integrity of the process. (Note: Amb. Carney delivered this message on August 24. End Note.) Ms. Cook expressed concern that IEC Chairman Ludin had indicated to the press that he would start providing some details of results elections on August 22 and she opined it would take at least until August 25 for enough information to be collected to make a correct preliminary partial announcement. The IEC now plans to announce partial preliminary results, perhaps of ten percent of the tally, late afternoon of August 25. EIKENBERRY

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