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Cablegate: Ncrc "Finishes" Referendum Law, but Five Big Issues Remain

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OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #0952/01 2300413
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O 180413Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4271
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000952

NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM EAID AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: NCRC "FINISHES" REFERENDUM LAW, BUT FIVE BIG ISSUES REMAIN

REF: KHARTOUM 807

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Professor Abdulla Idris, co-chairman of the
National Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC) told Poloff August
11 that the NCRC has finished its work on the Referendum Law, but he
noted that disputed provisions related to the electoral system,
eligible voters, voting process, referendum commission, and
post-referendum arrangements remain. The NCP and SPLM also disagree
on when the bill should be introduced in the National Assembly.
Professor Idris said he hopes that the U.S. Special Envoy will take
the lead to find middle ground with the parties on the Referendum
Law. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On August 11, poloff met with Professor Abdulla Idris,
Co-chairman of the NCRC. Idris confirmed that the NCRC has finished
its work on the Referendum Law, but that a number of important
issues are outstanding. The leadership of the NCRC is unable to
resolve these issues, he said, and so they will have to be worked
out in discussions between the political parties.

---------------------------------------------
Referendum Law: Five Major Issues Outstanding
---------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) While reports of outstanding issues differ, five areas of
disagreement are clear:

-- Electoral System: The NCP wants a fixed percentage of total
eligible Southern voters that must vote to create a large enough
quorum to legitimize the vote; the SPLM wants to require only the
numbers of voters who choose to participate. The SPLM has suggested
the referendum itself be decided by simple majority (50 percent plus
one) while the NCP insists on 75 percent.

-- Eligible Voters: The parties disagree on who should be eligible
to vote in the referendum. SPLM contends that only Southerners
living in the South should be allowed to vote, while the NCP wants
the vote extended to the over 400,000 Southerners they contend live
in the North and Southerners living abroad.

-- Voting Process: The SPLM wants to use two ballot boxes so that
illiterate voters will find the process less confusing; the NCP
wants only one box. Both methods raise issues with security and
privacy of the vote. Election advisors and UN election officials
stated that their suggestions on international standards have not
resonated with the parties.

-- Referendum Commission: The SPLM wants the Referendum Commission
to be composed of members appointed by the parties, as is the
National Election Commission (NEC); the NCP; however, wants the
commission to be composed of fifteen members appointed by the
presidency.

-- Post Referendum Arrangements: The NCP wants a separate law
covering this while the SPLM favors a separate binding agreement
signed by both parties. In the trilateral talks the NCP retreated
from its insistence that post referendum arrangements be included in
the Referendum law. (Reftel).

--------------------------------------------- ------
NCP: Hold Referendum Law Until 2011 National Assembly
--------------------------------------------- ------

4. (SBU) Idris said the NCP has taken the position that the
Referendum Law should be introduced in the new National Assembly
that is democratically elected in the April 2010 election.
According to Idris, NCP officials have remarked that a law so
momentous should wait until after the election so that it can be
considered by the country's newly elected representatives. Idris is
concerned that neither party is ready to make concessions on the
outstanding issues.

5. (SBU) He expressed appreciation for Special Envoy (SE) Gration's
efforts in the Trilateral talks and said he hoped that the SE would
help the parties come to an agreement on outstanding referendum
issues as well. While Idris, UN Election officials and Election
Advisors are confident that the decision must be made at the highest
levels of government.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Little attention is being paid to preparations
for the Abyei referendum. The NCP's failure to participate in
meetings, and proposals that would delay even introduction of the
legislation for the Southern Referendum until the 2011 National
Assembly, raise doubts as to the party's commitment to the
referendum. In addition, there has been a pessimistic tone in the
rhetoric of the SPLM about the referendum and increasing evidence of

KHARTOUM 00000952 002 OF 002


fractures within the party, as evidenced by SPLM General Secretary
Pagan Amum's remarks about unilateral secession if agreement on the
referendum were not reached. Both parties appear locked into
hardening positions on the critical issues of the two referenda.
END COMMENT.

WHITEHEAD

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