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Cablegate: Civil Society's Expectations for Elections Low,

DE RUEHEG #2111/01 3091524
P 051524Z NOV 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 002111



E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/05/2029
LOOKING AT OTHER ROUTES TO REFORM REF: A. CAIRO 1977 B. CAIRO 684 Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey for reason 1.4 (d).
1.KEY POINTS -- (C) On October 13, civil society activists told the Ambassador that they continue to have low expectations for the 2010 parliamentary and 011 presidential elections, predicting GOE fraudand intimidation, and continued voter apathy. -- (C) Activists said that the current generation s politically engaged but does not believe in th election process. To a certain extent, changes t the process, like using the national ID card oradmitting international monitors, could help renw confidence. -- (C) In addition to the electios, participants noted the need to keep focused on other reform gains, like increased space for labor activism, and efforts to maintain pressure on the GoE to follow through on the implementation of reforms it promises to undertake.

2.(C) Comment: As in our earlier meeting with political activists (ref A), resignation about the outcome of the elections and significant cynicism about the electoral process persist. However, this group appears somewhat more upbeat that Egyptians remain politically engaged, even if cynical about elections. End comment. ------------------------------------------ Lack of Confidence in the Electoral System ------------------------------------------

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3.(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that XXXXXXXXXXXX are apathetic about the coming elections because they view the outcome as pre-determined. He doubted that young people would vote in significant numbers. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that Egyptians are "smart enough not to legitimize an illegitimate process by turning out to vote." Citing inaccuracies in the voter rolls and confusion over where voters were registered, several present also noted that a lack of faith in the process was the key to past low turnout. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the GOE will continue to rig the elections even if monitored. XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested the nomination of Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court and Presidential Election Commission Chairman Judge Farouk Sultan, whose nomination was widely criticized as political, is evidence of the GOE's determination to manage the outcome of the elections. XXXXXXXXXXXX dismissed Egyptian elections as historically illegitimate, noting that sometimes polling stations are simply never opened to admit voters.

4.(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that in XXXXXXXXXXXX experience Egyptians, and in particular women, are well informed and interested in politics, but the issue of mobilizing them remains. In XXXXXXXXXXXX view, the issue is both a frustration with process and finding an alternative voters want to support. On process, XXXXXXXXXXXX said monitors lend credibility, but voters are concerned about the diminished role for judges and its effect on the process, credibility. XXXXXXXXXXXX was more optimistic that youth would turn out to vote in these elections and called for a "Rock the Vote" style campaign. XXXXXXXXXXXX acknowledged that it has been easier to mobilize youth to monitor elections, than to convince them to vote, believing their monitoring to be more influential. XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested that the key is to convince voters that participation is important, and that apathy leaves the key decisions to others. --------------------------------------------- ------- Moving to the National ID and International Monitors --------------------------------------------- -------

5.(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX noted their support for using national identification cards, rather than voting cards, to simplify the process and reduce intimidation of voters who must go to their local police station to receive a card. XXXXXXXXXXXX is already working to promote this CAIRO 00002111 002.4 OF 002 effort. XXXXXXXXXXXX called for a civil society effort to lobby the GOE to use ID cards. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted there is a growing Egyptian consensus in favor of international election monitors, which he attributed to fears over constitutional changes that will reduce judicial supervision in the 2010 elections.

6.(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX Several political activists and members of the opposition, including parliamentarians from the Muslim Brotherhood, have joined the three election-related coalitions formed over the last year. Only two, "Egyptians for Free and Fair Elections" and "Sawti Matlabi" ("My Vote My Demand"), have called for international monitors. The third, the "Egyptian Coalition for Change," called on October 4 for a boycott of the elections. There has been no formal endorsement of international monitors from any opposition party. End Note.) ---------------------------- Pushing Reform Gains Forward ----------------------------

7.(C) Several members of the group suggested that reform outside the electoral process was just as significant. XXXXXXXXXXXX emphasized the need to hold the government accountable. No matter the outcome, the most significant role for civil society is to "hold a mirror up" to those who win the elections and keep them to their commitments. XXXXXXXXXXXX urged the group look at indicators of political progress other than elections. He cited labor advances as an achievement that resulted from Egypt's 2004-2007 political opening, saying that the GOE now permits open discussion of labor issues and has allowed the formation of the first independent union, the real estate tax collectors union, though it is not clear that the unique circumstances that led to the formation of this union can be immediately reproduced elsewhere. XXXXXXXXXXXX attributed the labor movement's success to its ability to mobilize large numbers of people to support its causes. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that Egypt's governance problems are rooted not in illegitimate elections, but in the GOE's lack of political will to enact reforms. XXXXXXXXXXXX

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