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Cablegate: Strengthening the Independent Electoral

VZCZCXRO3605
RR RUEHDBU RUEHPW RUEHSL
DE RUEHBUL #2378/01 2280820
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160820Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0848
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 002378

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 PREL AF
SUBJECT: STRENGTHENING THE INDEPENDENT ELECTORAL
COMPLAINTS COMMISSION

REF: A. Kabul 2295
B. Kabul 2019

1. (U) SUMMARY: Fraud remains a serious threat to the election
process as actual or perceived fraud may seriously undermine
acceptance of election results (ref A). The Independent Election
Commission (IEC) and Independent Electoral Complaints Commission
(ECC) are the main bodies involved in preventing, detecting and
resolving electoral fraud. IEC fraud prevention and mitigation
mechanisms are good but will be strained by conditions on the ground
(ref B). As a result, a strong and effective ECC is critical for
ensuring a credible election. After a slow start, the ECC is rapidly
increasing capability and taking steps to improve its public
perception of using USG and other support. End Summary.

Fraud remains a threat to credible elections
--------------------------------------------

2. (U) A trend of electoral fraud, established the 2004 and 2005
elections, is likely to continue. In 2005, the JEMB and ECC
excluded more than 700 polling stations from the count due to fraud.
An equal or greater risk during this election exists because
security conditions have deteriorated, limiting the ability of
candidate/party agents and observers, who serve as an important
fraud deterrent, to reach fraud-prone areas. In addition, with a
highly-contested presidential race, the potential impact of fraud on
electoral outcomes is high. Government of the Islamic Republic of
Afghanistan (GIRoA) and the international community push to increase
enfranchisement by opening polling sites in areas inaccessible to
Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and observers further
increases the risk of fraud, although the very recent IEC decision
to insist that ANSF security is the sine qua non to establishing a
polling center mitigates the risk.


Roles of IEC and ECC in fraud prevention
and resolution
----------------------------------------

3. (U) The IEC is responsible for overall quality control of the
election process and implementation of a systematic approach to
fraud prevention and detection. In addition to existing controls,
the IEC will use internal audits of results to detect fraud and
conduct investigations when necessary. If the IEC finds evidence of
fraud, it may quarantine boxes or stations as more investigation is
done or decide to exclude or include boxes and stations from
preliminary results (ref B).

4. (U) The ECC will be primarily complaint driven and will not take
up fraud cases unless it receives information that irregularity has
occurred. However, the ECC will conduct analysis to determine areas
that are fraud-prone, and may prioritize resolution of complaints
from these areas. To reach decisions, the ECC will conduct
investigations that will include interviews with key witnesses and
inspection of election materials. If it identifies fraud it can
decide to exclude or include boxes - or entire polling stations -
from the count and sanction offenders for fraud violations or other
polling and counting offences.

5. (U) In addition to complaints made on Election Day, the ECC
likely will receive complaints as the IEC announces preliminary
results in the days and weeks after the election. The ECC will
adjudicate these complaints and may make additional exclusion or
inclusion decisions and sanction offenders for violations. The IEC
only can certify and announce final election results once the ECC
has made a decision on all complaints that have been filed within
the allowed time frame. Complaints must be made within 72 hours of
the offense.


Recent ECC sanctions
--------------------

6. (U) The ECC has announced several recent high-profile sanctions
of candidates that have helped to strengthen the public perception
of its capabilities. This increased credibility will be important
when it faces the anticipated large number of complaints about fraud
and other offenses after Election Day.

7. (U) On August 10, the ECC announced that it had fined VP Karim
Khalili, the second running mate of Hamed Karzai. Khalili allegedly
used three MOD helicopters for campaign purposes without following
the policy established by the IEC for the use of government
helicopters by candidates. The ECC cited "use of government
facilities on an unequal basis among candidates," and "failure to
follow IEC notification policy on use of MOD assets," observing that
Khalili directly ordered MOD to provide three helicopters for him to
fly in from Kabul to Baghlan on 10 July for campaign activities.
Khalili did not deny to the ECC that he had done so, contending he
had the authority to use choppers for this purpose. The ECC said he
paid the fine of 75,000 afghanis (1,500 dollars) on August 13.

8. (U) In addition, the ECC announced on August 11 that it fined Dr.
Abdullah Abdullah 5,000 afghanis for his campaigns pasting his
photos on the publicity billboards of the Ministry of Public Health
in Khost Province. The ECC also has fined eight presidential
candidates for tardiness in their submission of campaign finance
reports.

9. (U) In an interview with Tolo TV on August 11, Commissioner Fahim
Hakim said if violations continue or recur, the ECC may increase
penalties to a level that could disqualify a candidate. Fahim
Hakim added that complaints have been filed against the local
coordinators of the IEC in some provinces. He also said that six
complaints against presidential and provincial council candidates
have been sent to the General Prosecution Office because they
contained allegations of candidate involvement in criminal activity.
As of August 14, the ECC reported that it has received 376
complaints, with the majority at the provincial level, and
adjudicated 105, most of them dismissed.

Current ECC operational status
------------------------------

10. (U) The ECC was delayed in building its operational
capabilities, which has undermined public confidence in its ability
to regulate the election process, but it has recently gained
momentum (ref A). The ECC will need to be fully functional before
Election Day so that it is able to manage the anticipated flood of
complaints resulting from the presidential and provincial elections.
The ECC estimates it will receive about 4,000 total complaints
mostly pertaining to provincial council elections.

11. (U) On Aug 11, the ECC shared with donors its operational plan
for adjudicating polling and counting complaints. The ECC will
receive complaints arising directly from polling stations as well as
complaints against preliminary results.

12. (U) Key elements of the operational plan are the following:

(1) A centralized intake process at the ECC Complaints Processing
Center in Kabul.
(2) An initial assessment process ("triage") by ECC HQ to
determine the priority of each complaint.
(3) Investigation strategies driven by ECC HQ, executed as
required at the National Tally Center, in the provincial capitals or
at the district level.
(4) Close consultation with IEC regarding IEC audit and
investigation findings.
(5) Public notification of decisions through various means.

13. (U) The ECC is represented in each provinces by a Provincial
Electoral Complaints Commissions (PECC) made up of three
Commissioners and one support officer. Eight of the offices will
have additional legal and investigative capacity. ECC commissioners
make all final decisions based on recommendations and initial
decisions presented by investigative teams and PECCs. As of August
12, the ECC had 30 of 34 PECC offices fully established and staffed
and plans to complete the hiring of staff for the remaining four
provinces this week.

14. (U) The ECC has made recent progress in preparing its staff for
the challenge ahead. In the past two weeks a total of 100 staff
members from headquarters as well as provinces received a three day
seminar on investigative techniques at separate training sessions
for Dari and Pashtu-speaking staff at the Serena Hotel. The
training sessions also served to raise the public profile of the
ECC. At the sessions, ECC Commissioner Grant Kippen and other ECC
officials outlined the overarching purpose of the ECC and its
current activities to staff and the Afghan press.

International and USG support to the ECC
----------------------------------------

15. (U) The USG is supporting the ECC primarily through the UNDP
Elect programs as well as through a USAID contract with the
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). Support
includes core operational and staffing, as well as international
technical advisors for legal affairs, logistics, public outreach and
investigations.

16. (SBU) In addition, the US Interagency Election Support Team is
providing direct support, working with ECC to help identify
procedural weaknesses, structure its operations, and analyze
registration, polling center and fraud data to identify and map
fraud-prone areas. While providing this assistance, the Team is
ensuring that the support is being provided in a low-profile manner
to limit false perceptions of USG over involvement.

17. (SBU) The Team also is coordinating USG logistical support to
the ECC and IEC by making flight arrangements on USAID Air and
facilitating PRT access in insecure and fraud-prone provinces. With
USG support, the ECC Commissioners are traveling to regional centers
to ECC offices to ensure offices are well-functioning ahead of
Election Day. Also with USG support, the IEC Chief Election Officer
and other top-level election officials are traveling to fraud-prone
and insecure areas to audit the current preparations and emphasize
fraud prevention measures. Current plans call for top ECC and IEC
officials to visit about 20 provincial centers in the days before
the election.

18. (SBU) In the days and weeks after Election Day, the ECC may
require additional direct staffing, research, analysis and
investigation support. Also after Election Day, USG transportation
and logistical support may be even more important as investigation
teams may need assistance accessing insecure areas so complaints can
be resolved in a thorough and timely manner. The Election Support
Team will continue its involvement with ECC and stands ready to
provide additional technical support as needed.

EIKENBERRY

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