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Cablegate: Iec/Ecc Agree On Sampling Method for Audit

DE RUEHBUL #2961/01 2681210
P 251210Z SEP 09



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary. The Independent Elections Commission (IEC),
the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), the UN and
international experts have finalized an audit process for
contested presidential election ballots. SRSG Eide
introduced the new methodology to candidates' agents and
election observers on September 24, with a sharp reaction by
Abdullah's campaign manager to perceived IEC bias. The
Embassy has pushed for candidates to be better informed and
will continue to work with the UN, IEC and ECC on educating
the candidates and the public regarding this complex endgame.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) As of late September 23, the IEC and ECC had
agreed on a way forward to fulfill the requirements of the
September 8 ECC audit/recount directive (ref A). The IEC and
ECC have opted for an audit process rather than a full
recount of ballots, which would have been too time-consuming.
The audit will draw a sample of 313 ballot boxes from among
the 3063 polling stations that fall under the criteria of the
ECC directive. The audit methodology follows international
best practices and was designed by UN electoral experts.

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3. (SBU) On the afternoon of September 24, UN SRSG Kai Eide
hosted a meeting at which top IEC and ECC officials briefed
national and international observers, and candidate agents
representing the top four candidates, on the methodology.
IEC President Ludin, IEC Chief Electoral Officer Najafi, and
the ECC Commissioners participated. When Eide left the room,
according to UNDP-ELECT sources, the discussion grew heated,
with Abdullah campaign manager Satar Murat doubting Ludin's
impartiality and integrity, and Ludin referring to Abdullah
as "the loser." Under SRSG Eide's supervision, the meeting
returned to calm. The meeting did accomplish one of its
other goals - the random picking of sample boxes from
different provinces to be audited - allowing the next stage
of the process to begin.


4. (SBU) The IEC/ECC identified three categories of suspect
ballot boxes: 914 polling stations with over 600 ballots and
where one candidate received 95 percent of the votes; 627
polling stations with over 600 ballots but no candidate
receiving over 95 percent; and 1522 stations with between 100
and 600 ballots where one candidate received over 95 percent
of the vote. These three "universes" will have about ten
percent of their polling stations audited for a total of 313
polling stations under audit. The stations to be audited are
randomly selected from each universe. If 20 percent of
polling stations from a sample (i.e., 20 percent of the 10
percent sample) are found to be fraudulent, the entire
"universe" will be nullified.
5. (SBU) The operational plan to conduct the audit begins
with retrieval of the boxes by three groups with teams of
four persons observing the chain of custody. Air transport,
possibly via the UN and ISAF, will move boxes from provincial
capitals to the IEC headquarters in Kabul for the actual
audit. The process will separate from the audit those boxes
or ballots also subject to the ECC complaints process. The
audit will proceed once observers and candidate agents are
trained (probably September 27). Experts from UNAMA and the
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) will
formulate standard operating procedures (SOPs), checklists,
and a policy paper - to be based on international standards -
for the ECC. Two international experts, the UN's Carlos
Valenzuela and IFES' Carina Perelli, will sign as witnesses
to the documents that detail the SOPs and the policy.

Candidates Need Some Convincing

6. (SBU) SRSG Eide told us that he briefed both Karzai and
Abdullah individually on September 24, and that both asked
questions about criteria but, according to Eide, expressed
"satisfaction" with the audit plan. Both candidates are
publicly on the record supporting the IEC/ECC process,
although they have not yet made statements on the specific
new methodology.

7. (SBU) However, some members of both the Abdullah and
Karzai teams are expressing concerns about specific
procedural steps: the Karzai team on the recount, and the
Abdullah campaign on sampling. A Karzai advisor confirmed to
us the accuracy of a September 23 Tolo TV report that
President Karzai opposed a recount of votes in some polling
sites, because such a plan would "disrespect the nation's

KABUL 00002961 002 OF 002

vote." The Tolo broadcast reported correctly that Karzai's
team did agree with the decision to investigate the votes of
polling sites where more than 600 votes had been cast.

8. (SBU) One Abdullah campaign advisor told us that in
principle, the Abdullah team supported the new joint IEC/ECC
efforts to investigate fraud, and was upbeat about the
September 24 announcement. However, two other Abdullah
advisors separately voiced concerns about anything less than
a full recount; international affairs advisor Farid Zikria
said to us that "just taking samples" was not enough and that
doing so was a "political decision" and a "change of
direction" for the ECC, which they had counted on to "rescue
the election". He claimed that unless at least 600,000 of
the 1,200,000 suspicious votes were nullified -- which would
lead to a second round -- the election result would not be


9. (SBU) UNDP-ELECT will hold a broad meeting of
stakeholders September 25 to discuss messaging, and an IFES
public relations expert will arrive in Afghanistan shortly to
augment the IEC/ECC effort. Post had been active in getting
candidate agents invited to the September 24 rollout and will
continue to push for more proactive information-sharing,
explanation, and transparency from the IEC/ECC. These have
been in short supply at times, which has contributed to an
atmosphere of a lack of trust in the process. IEC, ECC and
the UN's approach to explaining this complex endgame is key
to its ultimate success and credibility.

© Scoop Media

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