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Cablegate: Provincial Officials: Laghman Election Preparations On

VZCZCXRO3573
RR RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #2368 2280516
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160516Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0838
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS KABUL 002368

DEPARTMENT FOR SRAP, SCA/FO, SCA/A, EUR/RPM
STATE PASS TO AID FOR ASIA/SCAA
USFOR-A FOR POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: PROVINCIAL OFFICIALS: LAGHMAN ELECTION PREPARATIONS ON
TRACK

1. (SBU) Summary: According to both the Laghman governor and the
chief of Laghman's Independent Election Commission (IEC), the
province is well prepared for the distribution of election-related
materials, a fact confirmed by a Provincial Reconstruction Team
(PRT) inspection of the IEC's facilities. At a large meeting on
August 1, area mullahs adopted a declaration supporting the
elections. Concerns remain over staffing and security for polling
places for female voters and over the status of the province's
Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). At a PRT-supported shura
(tribal gathering/meeting) in Alingar District, the governor was
told that residents intended to fully participate in the elections.
End summary.

2. (SBU) In a meeting on August 2, Laghman governor Lutfullah Mashal
told the PRT that the August 20 elections will be his top priority.
He expressed satisfaction with the preparations for the elections,
claiming that the province had 200,000 registered voters, half of
whom were women.

3. (SBU) He told the PRT that there was a meeting of 800 mullahs in
Mehtarlam on August 1 to rally support for the elections. According
to the governor, the mullahs adopted a declaration stating in part
that (1) they supported the elections, and did not want non-Laghmani
Taliban to create a rift among the locals (according to the
Governor, "Laghmani Taliban are an ethnic and not a political
movement"; he did not clarify that distinction); (2) Muslims had a
duty to vote, in order to create an Islamic government; (3) the
mullahs will vote as well. The governor told the PRT that he will
ask the mullahs to issue a statement to the general public
expressing their support for the election, and asked for assistance
in getting the statement printed. (Note: In a subsequent meeting
with Afghan National Police (ANP) Provincial Commander General
Omaryar, the PRT was told that the meeting consisted of 500 mullahs.
Information from other local sources indicated that the declaration
included a call for a timetable for the withdrawal of international
forces from Afghanistan. End Note.)

4. (SBU) Mashal requested USG assistance in providing fuel to
district governors so that they could travel more extensively in
support of the elections, and for the province's radio/television
bureau, in order that it could broadcast 24 hours a day in advance
of the election. The transmitter in Alishang District had been
forced to shut down due to a lack of fuel, the governor claimed.
The governor added that some candidates and campaign workers were
being "intimidated" in Alishang District.

5. (SBU) The PRT also met with Laghman Provincial IEC Chief Dr.
Daoud the same day. Daoud told the PRT that all "sensitive"
materials required for the election (including ballots, ink, and
other controlled materials) had been received, and showed the PRT
samples of those materials held in locked conex containers under
guard on the IEC compound. He also showed the PRT a detailed plan
for the distribution of those materials to the province's polling
places in advance of election day. Addressing the subject of
communications, Daoud said that district coordinators had been given
cellphones with SIM cards, and that an additional ten satellite
phones had also been distributed.

6. (SBU) Daoud said that the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC)
for Laghman Province had been "late in setting up." He said the ECC
in Laghman consisted of three local residents, and added "they say
they're busy, but they're not." Daoud admitted to concern over
staffing of polling stations for female voters. Polling place
workers need a certain level of education in order to perform their
functions, and finding literate women (especially in rural
districts) is very difficult, according to Daoud.

7. (SBU) At a PRT-supported shura held at Watangatu in Alishang
District on August 4, locals told the governor they intended to
participate in the elections despite threats of violence. Tribal
elders urged residents to fully research and discuss the merits of
presidential and provincial council candidates.

8. (SBU) Comment. Both Governor Mashal and IEC Chief Daoud appeared
confident in their assertions that preparations for the election
were well in hand, and the PRT's brief examination of the IEC
facilities, plans, and election materials seemed to confirm those
assertions. However, concerns remain over security of the
province's polling stations, especially those located in remoter,
more troubled districts such as Dalat Shah. The matter of
administration and security of polling stations for female voters is
of special concern. The PRT will continue to monitor and report on
election preparations. End Comment.


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