Cablegate: Egypt Elections Working Group, Step One Reaching


DE RUEHEG #1858 2701447
P 271447Z SEP 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 001858



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2019

Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) Key Issues: -- Egypt's 2010 parliamentary and 2011 presidential elections come at a time of increased scrutiny following other high-profile and flawed elections in the region. -- In order to ensure comprehensive engagement on upcoming elections in Egypt, Embassy Cairo has initiated an Elections Working Group (EWG). -- Embassy outreach to key players has already begun. On September 15, the Ambassador sat down with U.S. NGOs working on elections and democracy promotion in Egypt to review 2009/2010 programming priorities.

2. (C) Egypt faces three elections over the next 24 months. Recent events in Iran and Afghanistan have added to the scrutiny these elections will face both internationally and domestically. Egypt has only just begin preparing, formally and informally, for these elections. Embassy Cairo has begun to look systematically at our assistance and advocacy efforts in anticipation of these events.

3. (C) Embassy Cairo held its first Elections Working Group (EWG) on September 15. This group draws from key members of the Country Team and is part of Embassy Cairo's efforts to monitor election-related efforts in Egypt. Next steps include the preparation of a timeline of election related events, baseline reporting on the election environment with a focus on process (specifically how changes to the electoral process following the 2005 elections will affect the conduct of the upcoming elections), an analysis of the current media climate and limits placed on freedom of expression, and, an analysis of key political parties, their election plans and their leaders. The Embassy is also developing a media and outreach strategy in order to identify and explain U.S. policy priorities in Egypt in the areas of democracy promotion, freedom of expression, good governance and rule of law. In late September, the EWG will also initiate the first in a series of election-related DVC's with Washington interlocutors.

4. (SBU) The Embassy has already begun to reach out to key partners. In a September 15 discussion hosted by the Ambassador, the country directors from the three principle (and unregistered) U.S. NGOs operating in field of democracy promotion in Egypt, the International Federation for Electoral Systems (IFES), National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI), reviewed current programming and plans for 2010. Ambassador and USAID Mission Director outlined the Embassy's ongoing efforts to press the GoE for progress on the formal registration of these and other U.S. NGOs operating in Egypt. While expressing concern about their pending registration status, all reported they have been able to continue their work.

5. (SBU) In a discussion about programming priorities in the lead-up to the 2010 parliamentary elections, NDI country director Lila Jafaar reviewed NDI efforts to train political party leaders, support domestic monitoring efforts, and promote voter education. Jafaar noted the importance of empowered and formally accredited local monitors, but added that the presence of international monitors would provide the extra "moral support" needed to ensure the most egregious forms of election tampering and obstruction would not occur. Recently arrived IRI country director Carlos Espinosa said IRI would focus on party development, not on electoral process. Espinoza specifically noted the tendency by opposition parties to focus on personalities and not institutional development. IFES country director Jeffrey Carlson noted the lack of a clearly defined elections infrastructure. He pointed out that while elections are coordinated by the constitutionally mandated Higher Electoral Commission (HEC), the HEC has limited staffing and operates without clearly defined authorities when deploying the thousands of staff (from other GoE entities) needed to conduct the elections. Carlson said he is currently focused on building a relationship with the new HEC Chairman (appointed in June) and preparation of an election workbook and a polling station manual (the latter in coordination with the MOI), and implementing voter education programs. Scobey

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