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Cablegate: Voter Registration Staff Cut, Political Parties Saddled

VZCZCXRO1764
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #1165/01 2891011
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 161011Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4575
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001165

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

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KPKO SOCI SU
SUBJECT: VOTER REGISTRATION STAFF CUT, POLITICAL PARTIES SADDLED
WITH VOTER EDUCATION

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 13, the National Elections Commission
(NEC) announced that it will cut its voter registration staff from
10,000 to 1,500, a number which election experts say is sufficient
to register only 40 percent of the eligible electorate. The NEC
also announced that political parties would bear much of the
responsibility for distributing voter education and registration
information; in response, the parties complained that they had
neither the time nor the funds to carry out these responsibilities.
Southern Sudan election preparation is behind schedule due to
insufficient attention from the National Election Commission, lack
of Southern representation on the NEC, and a severe lack of capacity
and funding for the Southern Sudan High Election Committee. End
Summary

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INSUFFICENT VOTER REGISTRATION STAFF
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On October 13, poloff met with Jerome Leyraud, Country
Director for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems
(IFES) and Renzo Hettinger, European Commission electoral advisor.
Both Leyraud and Hettinger highlighted concerns that the NEC had
reneged on the voter registration plan to which it had agreed with
election advisors. As previously agreed, the NEC had proposed
hiring approximately 10,000 staff to conduct voter registration.
The new plan, which the NEC is in the process of implementing,
provides for only 1,498 registration staff for the entire country.
The NEC did not give a reason for the change, but Leyraud and
Hettinger suspect that the NEC realized it does not have enough time
to hire and train 10,000 staff before voter registration begins on
November 1. The new, lower staffing level will likely result in
registration of only 40 to 50 percent of voters, according to
Leyraud. The NEC declined to specify how voter registration staff
will be hired, or according to what standards, the elections
advisors said.

3. (SBU) Leyraud and Hettinger stated they are disappointed that the
NEC unilaterally decided on the new plan without informing or
consulting technical advisors or the international community. This
incident has led to a deteriorating relationship between the NEC and
election advisors, Leyraud and Hettinger reported.

--------------------------------------------- --------
POLITICAL PARTIES HANDED LAST MINUTE RESPONSIBILITIES
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. (SBU) At a political party workshop hosted by the NEC on October
13, political parties were informed that they "share full
responsibility" for voter education and distribution of registration
requirements and information. Despite having given the parties
these new responsibilities, the NEC and Government of National Unity
officials made no provision to provide funding to parties for this
purpose. Representatives of political parties expressed concern
that there is not enough time to prepare for or raise funds to do
voter education for registration. According to the NEC, parties
will not receive financial assistance.

5. (SBU) According to Ray Kennedy, United Nations Mission in Sudan
(UNMIS) Chief Electoral Affairs Advisor, as well as election
advisors Hettinger and Leyraud, the NEC has yet to begin a voter
education campaign. The NEC insists it will begin a campaign on TV
and radio, but that planning is still in the preliminary stages. In
addition, UNMIS is receiving reports from political parties in many
states that the State Election High Committees are asking political
parties to shoulder the bulk of the work.

---------------------------------------------
SOUTHERN PREPARATION SEVERELY BEHIND SCHEDULE
---------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In a NEC technical committee meeting on October 12 attended
by election advisors, the NEC acknowledged that while voter
registration preparation in the North is "on track", they are not
sure about the status of preparations in the South. NEC officials
also acknowledged that they had heard from officials on the ground
that preparation is severely behind schedule, and that it will be
impossible for registration to begin in the South on November 1.

7. (SBU) According to Leyraud, the Southern Sudan Election High
Committee (SSEHC) lacks the resources and capacity to prepare for
voter registration. SSEHC officials have told him that financial
transfers from the NEC have not been completed, and they are
confused about when and from where their funding will come. Members
of the SSEHC also informed Leyraud that election preparation is far
behind schedule, and that the SSEHC has been lobbying for the

KHARTOUM 00001165 002.2 OF 002


appointment of a Southerner to the vacant NEC commissioner seat.
The latter opened a year ago following the death of the previous
commissioner. According to the SSEHC, the Presidency in Khartoum is
delaying this appointment.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: The National Election Commission appears to be
transferring responsibility for voter education to political parties
as a way to reduce its accountability in the face of what could be
an impending voter registration disaster. Coupled with the reduced
number of registration staff, this development seems certain to
result in only a small portion of the eligible electorate being
registered to vote. Election advisors fear that when registration
day comes, constituents will know little, if anything, about where
to register, what identification will be required, and also lack
other essential information.


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