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Cablegate: Afghan Elections Situation Report Thirteen - 1600 Local,

VZCZCXYZ0006
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBUL #2459/01 2331147
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211147Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1001
INFO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 7834
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3839
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS KABUL 002459

DEPT FOR AFGHAN ELECTIONS TASK FORCE

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM AF

SUBJECT: Afghan Elections Situation Report Thirteen - 1600 Local,
August 21, 2009

1. (U) The next sitrep will be issued at 2000 Kabul time. The Ops
Center will close at 2100.

------------
Atmospherics
------------

2. (U) General updates

In a press conference Friday afternoon, the IEC said that counting
the votes in all provinces, except Kabul, Baghlan, Nangarhar and
Herat has ended.
In conversation with Ambassador Carney, at midday 21 August, IEC
chairman Dr. Ludin agreed on the need for careful messaging,
considering that candidates and their managers appear to be
beginning to claim victory. He was grateful that the USG plans to
underscore that only the IEC can give credible results and that the
final results must await adjudication of complaints by the ECC. Dr.
Ludin also accepted that prudent public administration practices
argue that he should let the operational side of the IEC give press
conferences until the final results are ready. In that context, he
noted that chief electoral officer Dawood Najafi would give the IEC
press conference at 1830 today and that field operations chief
Mohamamd Hashim will take the VOA interview that Dr. Ludin had
initially agreed to do.

The Canadian Embassy today spoke with Mohammad Natiqi, Spokesman of
the Wahadat party (supporting President Hamid Karzai) to solicit his
views with respect to the conduct of elections, outcomes, and
results. He assessed yesterday's election as a success, stating
that Wahadat was "fully satisfied" with the process. The IEC, he
contended, has performed well under very challenging circumstances.
Rumored instances of fraud, intimidation and manipulation, he
argued, were not sufficient to undermine the credibility of the
process broadly. Natiqi characterized elections day as an
expression of the Afghan people's support and determination for a
democratic political order, and a serious blow to the enemies of
Afghanistan. He was confident that a majority of Afghans were able
to access and participate in the elections, conceding that security
conditions in some areas did prevent a minority from casting their
ballots. Natiqi credited political parties, civil society, and
associations for encouraging broad participation. He acknowledged
that women's participation was still low relative to that of male
votes. Natiqi indicated that Wahadat supporters had turned out in
significant numbers in Bamiyan (RC East), Daikuni (RC South), Ghowr
(RC West), Balkh (RC North), Nangarhar (RC East), and Kabul (RC
Capital). He was supremely confident that the incumbent, President
Karzai, would emerge victorious. To illustrate his point, he noted
that of the approximately 1.1 million ballots reportedly counted so
far, as many as 800,000 of them went to President Karzai (Note: the
Canadian Embassy has not verified this figure). He suggested that
political parties had played a crucial and decisive role in this
election, both in terms of mobilizing the population as well as in
safeguarding the credibility of the process through observation (he
noted that Wahadat had deployed as many as 29 thousand observers on
polling day).
The Canadian Embassy also today spoke with Mr. Fazel Hussain
Sancharaki, the Spokesperson of the National Front (supporting Dr.
Abdullah), to solicit his views on, and reactions to, polling day,
as well as on next steps for the Abdullah campaign. Sancharaki
described polling day as a success, despite some challenges, and
expressed Dr. Abdullah's gratitude to all those who had
participated. He reminded Canadian Embassy officials of the many
concerns flagged by the Abdullah campaign with respect to
irregularities and acts of intimidation, and indicated that they
would be lodging formal complaints with the IEC and ECC shortly.
These complaints will include claims of interference in the election
by government officials, use of improper materials (ink), and
insufficient elections equipment and materials. He also noted that
members of the security services had arrested Abdullah campaign
personnel and observers in Kandahar (RC South) on polling day.
Sancharaki flagged insecurity and insurgent activity as a
significant barrier to participation in some areas of the country,
but assessed that a majority of Afghans were able to access polling
centers - the National Front estimates that between 5 and 7 million
Afghans cast ballots. He considered participation rates amongst
Afghan women as "acceptable". Sancharaki indicated that the
Abdullah campaign and the National Front are concerned by low voter
turn-out, however, in some of the more troubled provinces including
Kandahar (RC South), Ghazni (RC East) and Wardak (RC East), where
they believe only 5-10% of the electorate voted. When asked where
he believed Dr. Abdullah had received the most support, Sancharaki
claimed (unverified) that Dr. Abdullah received as much as 80% of
the vote in Ghowr (RC West), and a majority of the votes in Balkh
(RC North), Badakshan (RC North), Sar-e Pol (RC North), Samangan (RC

North), Kapisa (RC East), Paktia (RC East), Paktika (RC East) and
Lowgar (RC East). He expressed his confidence that Dr. Abdullah is
leading the race for the presidency, and is likely to win election.
On the Provincial Council elections, Sancharaki noted that they were
completely overshadowed by the Presidential race. Nevertheless, he
claimed that the political parties associated with the National
Front fielded "many" candidates, and he was hopeful that they would
do well.


3. (U) Provincial reports by region follow:
RC South:
-- Helmand: British Embassy reported as of 1300, no major news from
Helmand today, but it looks like reasonable turnout in Lashkar Gah
might have counterbalanced low turnout in the districts, so that the
total is respectable (if not high) overall.


RC-East:
-- Nothing new to report.

RC North:

-- Nothing new to report.

RC West:
--Ghor: Ghor is back to normal today. UNDP and IEC report that
ballot counting went well last night. There were only minor
problems in one of the districts when PC candidates tried to
interfere with the count (they were unsuccessful). IEC expects the
first shipment of sensitive materials to arrive in Chaghcharan
August 22 and hope to have all the materials by August 25.


RC Central:

-- Nothing new to report.

-------------
Voter Turnout
-------------

4. (U) Provincial reports by region follow:

RC South:

-- Lashkar Gah: PRT Lashkar Gah reports it lacks ballot count
information from the districts to compare against Stabads'
guesstimates of turnout, and has no information about turnout in
Lashkar Gah. The PRT continues to estimate 20 to 30 percent turnout
in the districts. For Lashkar Gah, an advisor to the governor
estimated 50 percent turnout.

RC East:

-- Nothing new to report.

RC North:

These are rough, anecdotal estimates by UNAMA:
-- Kunduz province - low (consistent with our observations)
-- Badakhshan - medium to high
-- Takhar - medium to high, but slightly lower than Badakhshan
-- Baghlan - low to medium, lowest in Baghlan-i-Jadid where there
were clashes with insurgents for much of the day
German newsweekly Der Spiegel quotes Kunduz Gov. Omar as saying only
one polling station was able to open in Chahar Dara district and
hardly anyone voted there (this is consistent with what we've heard
from other sources). Omar is quoted as estimating turnout for the
province at 50%.

RC West:

-- Nothing new to report.

RC Central:

-- Nothing new to report.

---------
Security
---------

5. (U) Provincial reports by region follow:

RC South:

-- Nothing new to report.

RC East:
-- Nothing new to report.

RC North:

-- Nothing new to report.

RC West:

-- Nothing new to report.

RC Central:

-- Nothing new to report.

----------------------------
Voting & Counting Activities
----------------------------

6. (U) As of 11:45 am local time, 3039 of 6210 centers had completed
their counts, 48 percent of total centers that opened on election
day. There have been several unconfirmed reports that convoys
carrying elections materials have come under fire in Baghdiz and
other provinces as they move from districts to the provincial
centers. The tally center at IEC has not yet become functional as
of this report.

7. (U) Provincial reports by region follow:

RC South:

-- Helmand: The count is still ongoing in Gereshk, and counted
ballots are beginning to trickle into the IEC warehouse from the
districts. Ballots from Sangin and Nad Ali have arrived already,
and the MEB will fly in ballots from Khanashin and Nowzad late
tonight. We have no information about the status of the count in
Lashkar Gah, and we understand that the IEC refused to provide Gov
Mangal with info.


RC East:

-- Nuristan: As of 1300 August 21, eight of nine polling sites for
Nurgram district have delivered their tally sheets and ballots to
the collection point at Nurgram district center. PEO Omar Sami is
now at Nurgram (vice Jalalabad or Parun) and is at work. Omar
expects Dow Ab materials to arrive tomorrow 22 August. Six of eight
polling sites materials at the Dow Ab district center, to set off
for Nurgam tomorrow.

-- Parwan: Today by 1300, ballots had come in to provincial IEC HQ
in Charikar from Jabal Saraj, Sayed Khel, Salang, Charikar, and
Bagram districts, while ballots from Kohe Safi arrived last night.
A single convoy with ANP escort is currently en route from the four
Western Parwan districts, due in to Charikar this evening. IEC,
with ANP escort, departed Charikar at 1500 with tally sheets from
the tranche of ballots already in Charikar. According to the IEC,
ANP has been very cooperative in fulfilling all of its security
escort duties. PEO Taj Ali told PRT that counting continues in
district centers throughout Paktika. He shared general numbers of
ballots cast in five of the province's 23 districts (19 official, 4
unofficial). Though this limited sample does not include the
population centers of Sharana, Orgun, or Bermel, whose counts are
still ongoing, the numbers connote strong participation from the
province's approximately 600,000 registered voters.

Khair Kot: 50,000 votes cast
Sarobi: 30,000
Joni Khel: 28,000
Waza Khwa: 24,000
Sar Hawza: 17,000

RC North:

-- Balkh: Vote counting has finished in Jowzjan and Samangan
provinces. Tally sheets are enroute to the provincial IEC offices.
As of 11:00 this morning, votes were still being counted at 27
voting centers in Balkh province and at 16 voting centers in
Sar-e-pul province. An advisor to the regional IEC said that eight
voting centers in Sar-e-pul and eleven in Faryab have not reported
their results due to communications difficulties. By Monday, the

IEC advisor expects all tally sheets will have arrived in Mazar.

RC West:

-- Nothing new to report.

RC Central:

-- Nothing new to report.


-----
Fraud
-----

8. (SBU) Provincial reports by region follow:

RC South:

-- Helmand: The Lashkar Gah count is still ongoing, and given the
procedural smoothness yesterday we are uncertain what is causing
the delay. There was one report at midday of bundled ballots
arriving by car at a polling station in the middle of counting and
being added to the tally; we think these votes were for Abdullah.

RC East:

-- Nothing new to report.

RC North:
-- Nothing new to report.

RC West:

-- Nothing new to report.

RC Central:

-- Nothing new to report.

--------------
Public Affairs
--------------
9. (U) NEW MESSAGING:
10. (U) AFGHAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS:

AFGHAN MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS
--The lead story in the Afghan media was the continuous coverage of
the Afghan elections.
--In a press conference Friday afternoon, the IEC said that counting
the votes in all provinces, except Kabul, Baghlan, Nengarhar and
Herat has ended. The IEC said that preliminary results will be
announced August 25. The IEC did not give any timetable for the
final results. However, it said that final results will be
announced after thoroughly investigating all complaints about vote
rigging in some provinces. It added that if vote rigging in an
area is confirmed, all ballot boxes in that area would be
quarantined.
--Both President Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, his main rival,
claimed victory. President Karzai's campaign chief Din Mohammm said
that preliminary results indicate that President Karzai was the
clear winner and that there would be no need to go to the second
round.
--In a Tolo interview today, President Karzai's media
representative, Waheed Omar, backtracked from previous statements
made by President Karzai's campaign manager Din Mohammad declaring a
victory by President Karzai. He noted while the assessments by their
polling agents showed them to be in the lead and gave them
confidence that they would emerge victorious, only the IEC could
declare the winner of the elections. He also noted that predictions
that a second round would not take place was in their interest and
acknowledged that this decision could only be made after the IEC
announcement of the results. When pressed by the Tolo reporter about
broad coverage of President Karzai's claims of victory, Omar
reiterated that Din Mohammad's comments to Reuters been picked up
and run by others including the BBC. He claimed that the campaign
only made comments about being in the lead to Reuters.
-- The IEC called on all candidates to exercise cautious and
restraint. It added that it was too early for any candidate to claim
victory.
--The IEC rejected claims of victory by President Karzai in Xinhua
press and stressed that any predictions about any result announced
by any person or organization was inaccurate.
--Fazil Sancharak, spokesperson of Abdullah Abdullah, said that
results from various provinces indicate that Abdullah has won 61

percent of the vote. He also added that there was vote rigging in
at least three provinces.

--Pajhwok news agency quoted the Afghanistan Supreme Court as saying
that Saturday August 22, will be the first day of the holy month of
Ramadan.
EIKENBERRY

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