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Cablegate: Problems Plague Beginning of Voter Registration

VZCZCXRO8377
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #1281/01 3190909
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 150909Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4736
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 001281

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 PREL PHUM KDEM SU
SUBJECT: PROBLEMS PLAGUE BEGINNING OF VOTER REGISTRATION

Ref: KHARTOUM 1165

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: After two weeks of voter registration for the
first general elections in Sudan in over 20 years, observers say the
dearth of information about when, where and how to register has
confused potential registrants. The National Electoral Commission
(NEC) has reported far more people registered than observers have
seen actually registering; most registrars appear not to be
following established registration procedures for verifying
residency within the constituency, and instances of fraud and
intimidation have been reported. Opposition parties report that they
have been unable to register their party agents, and have complained
that the NEC has authorized military personnel to register near
their duty stations rather than in the constituencies in which they
reside. In response to complaints, the NEC has added seven
additional countries to those where Sudanese may register to cast an
absentee ballot. Despite the NEC's responsiveness, the many
problems with the registration process will require continued robust
participation by international and domestic observers. End Summary.


-----------------------------------
VOTER EDUCATION INFORMATION LACKING
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) Voter registration opened quietly on November 1, with no
fanfare, few public announcements and almost no public information
campaigns. Although the elections budget and voter registration
plan both called for a major voter education campaign, the NEC did
not roll out the promised mass media campaign. One week before
registration began, NEC instead delegated the responsibility for
informing the public about registration to the political parties,
telling them for the first time, that it was their obligation to
notify voters about where and when to register (Ref.) Parties
complained openly that they had no funding or other assistance from
NEC or the Political Parties Affairs Council (PPAC) to fulfill this
mandate. Numerous potential voters, even well educated and wealthy
citizens, have told us that the lack of information about the
registration process has left them confused and frustrated.

3. (SBU) Observers note that the numbers of voters reported
registered by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) far exceeds
the numbers of voters likely to have registered individually, given
first hand observations of the registration locations.

---------------------------------------
LOCATIONS OF REGISTRATION UNITS UNKNOWN
---------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The NEC has yet to publish a list of locations for mobile
units conducting the registration. Although the NEC contends that
registration centers are open from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm, observers
said that opening and closing times do not appear to be uniform
throughout the country. On November 8, the Khartoum Monitor stated
"Voter registration is not being made accessible to the common man
and women in the villages that the (voter registration) information
needs to reach. Even in urban areas, people do not know where to
register." In a memorandum dated November 12, Northern opposition
parties told the NEC that the minimal publicity about locations of
registration centers done on the local news and internet were
insufficient. (Note: Few Sudanese have internet access. End Note)
and urged NEC to broadcast the information via radio and newspapers,
and to post it on public transportation and in mosques and churches.
The memo also noted that once the mobile registration center moved
to a new location, staff at the center refused to register
individuals from the former location. Staff refused on the basis
that the registration center had moved into another constituency.
In its November 2 statement, the Carter Center highlighted the
connection between insufficient information on voter registration
and electoral disenfranchisement.

------------------------------------------
OPPOSITION UNABLE TO REGISTER PARTY AGENTS
---------------------------- --------------

5. (SBU) At a November 4 meeting, a high-ranking member of a
Northern opposition party told poloffs that opposition party members
seeking accreditation as party agents, in order to observe the
process on behalf of the party, have been rejected. Moreover, the
representative alleged, NCP agents are present and highly visible at
the registration locations the representative had visited. According
to the November 12 opposition party memo, staffers in NCP tents
erected outside registration centers in some constituencies
fraudulently represent themselves as registrars. Northern
opposition parties have complained to poloffs for months that they
have been unable to mobilize their constituents due to lack of

KHARTOUM 00001281 002 OF 003


funding and restriction of their political space by the security
services. The memo points out that the NCP has devoted enormous
resources to the registration effort, and is even paying for
transportation and other "incentives" for registration staff, a
practice the memo calls illegal.

--------------------------------------------
INSUFFICIENT TRAINING FOR REGISTRATION STAFF
--------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) According to individuals close to the process, the NEC
decided to discontinue training for voter registration staff a week
before registration began. Instead, the NEC decided to rely on state
election officials who had either sufficient experience or time to
conduct local training. As a result, the voter registration staff
is largely untrained, prone to errors and susceptible to fraud,
claims Jerome Leyraud, Country Director for the International
Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). Observers who visited
registration centers throughout the first week of registration noted
that registration is taking only 30 seconds to a minute to conclude,
with registrars asking no questions to determine the individual's
ties to the constituency or other information. They reported that
registration consisted only of handing the applicant a slip of
paper, which the individual should produce in April in order to
vote. They also said they witnessed no registrars refer to training
manuals. (Note: Although 30,000 staff training manuals were produced
with U.S. Government funding and provided to the NEC, it is unclear
how many have been distributed, or at what locations. End Note)

-------------------------------------------
POLITICS SENDS MIXED SIGNALS TO REGISTRANTS
-------------------------------------------

7.(SBU) The unresolved political dispute between the National
Congress Party (NCP) and Sudanese People's Liberation Movement
(SPLM) on the referendum law and census issues, in addition to SPLM
and opposition party boycott of the National Assembly, has soured
the prevailing political atmosphere. A group of Sudanese
businessman complained to poloffs November 7 that the wrangling and
posturing by political parties have left potential voters uncertain
about whether to participate in the process.

---------------------------------
DIASPORA VOTERS PROTEST EXCLUSION
---------------------------------

8. (U) The NEC originally announced that absentee voter registration
and voting would take place in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi
Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, the UK, the United States and
Belgium, but provided no rationale for the selection of those
locations. Potential voters in countries with a significant
Sudanese population, such as Canada, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia,
were vocal in protesting their exclusion from the process. In
response to the public outcry, the NEC told poloffs that it had
added seven additional countries to the list of countries in which
Sudanese citizens may register to vote: Canada, Kenya, Uganda, South
Africa, Libya, Yemen and Malaysia. The NEC told poloff that
refugees in neighboring countries will be unable to register because
they do not have Sudanese passports; nor can they return to Sudan to
register, because they cannot meet the five year residency
requirement.

------------------------------
FRAUD AND INTIMIDATION ALLEGED
-----------------------------

9. (SBU) Even before voter registration began, political parties,
the media and some would be voters alleged political party
intimidation and preparations to commit voter fraud. In the first
week of registration, Emboffs received reports of examples of fraud
and intimidation.
Other diplomatic missions and observers corroborated these reports
during a NEC Policy Committee Meeting on November 12. Reports
include:

-- Registration staff allowing persons to register to vote in two
constituencies, their place of residence and their place of work;
-- Individuals confiscating newly registered voters' registration
receipts which are needed to vote in April;
-- Individuals purchasing newly registered voters' registration
receipts;
-- Registration staff failing to check documentation and allowing
registration by secondary school students under 18, the legal voting
age;
-- Political parties conducting fraudulent door-to-door voter
"registration";

KHARTOUM 00001281 003 OF 003


-- Political party intimidation of registrants at registration
centers.

---------------------------
NEC CHANGES RULES MIDSTREAM
---------------------------

10. (SBU) In their memo, the opposition parties also complained
that the NEC had authorized military personnel to register near
their duty stations rather than in the constituencies in which they
reside. The parties noted that this was done with no prior public
notice and, without discussion by the NEC. The memo also claimed
that the parties observed that the procedure for registering
military personnel has been changed. In the first days of
registration, individual members of the military came to the
registration locations to register. Later, officers compiled lists
of their troops, and completed the registration procedure on their
men's behalf.

--------------------------------
SOUTH "SEIZED WITH REGISTRATION"
--------------------------------

11. (U) In Southern Sudan, GOSS President Salva Kiir addressed his
constituents on the eve of the start of registration, calling on all
people of voting age to register to vote. However, a Presidential
Order declaring seven days (November 11-17) of public holiday
throughout Southern Sudan to enable elected government officials, to
mobilize for voter registration was subsequently withdrawn. In
Juba, the U.N. Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), Sudanese civil society
groups and international NGOs kicked off the process on October 31
with a parade. On November 5, the Episcopalian and Catholic
Archbishops of Juba registered jointly and called on all clergies to
"preach the message of registration" throughout the month Of
November. One observer noted, "Southern Sudan is suddenly seized
with the registration process."

12. (SBU) COMMENT: NEC apparent willingness to make changes, such
as expanding the list of countries where Sudanese may register to
cast an absentee ballot, is encouraging. Nonetheless, the long list
of problems observed during the first half of the registration
process argues for continued robust participation in the observation
process by international and domestic observers if the elections are
eventually going to meet international norms.


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