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Cablegate: Nuristan Election Update

VZCZCXRO3574
RR RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #2369 2280519
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160519Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0839
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS KABUL 002369

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: NURISTAN ELECTION UPDATE

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On August 6th, community leaders and electoral
officials from Nuristan's western valley agreed to work together to
provide a stable, secure environment for voting, and to identify
suitable election workers. On the same day, Provincial Electoral
Officer (PEO) Omar Sami named his staff for Nuristan's Operation
Coordination Centers (OCCs), where Afghan soldiers and police will
work with Coalition Forces support, to provide election security.
Western valley leaders expressed willingness to organize local
militias for election security. Nuristanis' most frequent complaint
about elections was though they wanted to vote, the lack of security
and the province's rugged terrain meant many eligible voters could
not register in the fall 2008 update. We will continue to work with
the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and UNDP election advisors
to devise a solution that promotes enfranchisement and uniform
access to the polls, while discouraging fraud and perceptions of
fraud. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Nuristanis cast 47,142 ballots in the 2004 presidential
election, a fraction of the 8,128,942 total in 2004, a number so
modest the province would be unlikely to change the outcome even in
this year's more competitive contest. In this remote, mountainous
province of fiercely independent minority tribes confronting
increasing insurgent activity, Nuristan's voting day instead will be
a marker of the inclusiveness of the electoral process, and of the
willingness of Afghans to defy the Taliban to vote.

3. (SBU) On August 6 the district governor of Nurgram, with
assistance from TF Steel, hosted community representatives and
Independent Election Commission District Field Coordinators (DFCs)
from Nurgram, Dow Ab, and Mandol, the three districts of Nuristan's
western valley. Nurgram district governor Mohammed Ali opened the
shura by saying, "Successful elections are not possible without
you," addressing the local leaders as partners to electoral
officials, government officials, the police, the army, and Coalition
Forces. The Prophet Mohammed, said Mohammed Ali, chose leaders by
election, and Afghanistan's constitution reflects this Islamic
practice. The senior community leader present, Mohammed Saki from
Nangaresh, endorsed these sentiments, saying, "The constitution is
in the light of Islam" and provides the electoral framework.
Democracy, Mohammed Saki added, brings not only the right to choose
your own leaders, but facilitates economic development. In
consensus, local leaders promised to provide support and hospitality
to DFCs, and to facilitate the transport of election materials.
DFCs offered to work closely with community leaders to identify
suitable deputy DFCs and poll workers.

4. (SBU) On security, the elders of Pasini and Mandol offered to
rally local militias to support elections, a proposal consistent
with Interior Minister Atmar's plan to pay local forces
police-equivalent salaries for election security. TF Steel is
working now to support this initiative and facilitate the flow of
funds from Kabul. A Dow Ab leader, however, said his area needed
more police to protect the transit of election materials. PRT
Nuristan will highlight this request for the PEO and provincial
police chief. PEO Omar Sami on August 6 also named his
representatives for each of Nuristan security coordination centers -
the provincial OCC in Nurgram for the western valley, and the
satellite OCCs (at COP Keating and FOB Bostick) for the central and
eastern valleys.

5. (SBU) The August 6 western valley election shura demonstrated
again that many Nuristanis are eager to vote but are frustrated that
the patchy voter registration process has left some eligible voters
without voter cards. One shura participant drew applause when he
rose to say that he is "most happy to have elections," and that "our
brothers and sisters" among recent returnees, women, and Nuristanis
in the remotest valleys who could not obtain voter cards, also want
to vote. DFCs present noted that time is now too short for
additional registration before voting day on August 20. In support
of Nuristanis' evident determination to participate in the
democratic process, we will continue to work with the IEC and UNDP
to devise a solution that promotes enfranchisement and uniform
access to the polls while discouraging fraud and perceptions of
fraud.

6. (SBU) The PRT commander and the TF Steel commander have reviewed
this message.

EIKENBERRY

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