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05ZAGREB78 2005-01-14 15:15:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Zagreb
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					  UNCLAS  ZAGREB 000078 




E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) The respected Croatian NGO GONG has alleged that a
number of votes recorded at polling stations in Bosnia and
Herzegovina (BiH) during the first round of the Croatian
presidential elections were fraudulent. These allegations
apply only to so-called diaspora voting in BiH and not/not in
other diaspora voting nor in voting within Croatia. Although
not enough votes were cast outside of Croatia to affect the
final results, the indications of fraud have renewed calls
for electoral reform. It is unlikely that the Sanader
government will seek to change the long-standing policy of
diaspora voting for the parliament or President, as the
diaspora vote was critical to the current, slim HDZ majority
in the Sabor. Regardless of this scandal, President Mesic is
still the overwhelming favorite to win reelection in Sunday's
runoff round. END SUMMARY and COMMENT.

Fraud Charges


2. (U) In a widely publicized press conference February 13,
the respected Croatian NGO GONG announced that it had
uncovered evidence of irregularities in voting by ethnic
Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Although GONG did
not try to estimate the aggregate level of fraud in BiH, it
did find that a large number of voters were registered on the
day of elections at the polling place ) as many as 29.8% in
one Mostar polling station. GONG also contacted a random
sample of 10 persons shown as having voted: four were dead,
five said they had not voted, and just one said he had voted.
Finally, GONG found that several members of individual
district voting commissions were HDZ party members in
violation of regulations. GONG has filed criminal charges
and asked the State Prosecutor's Office to investigate.

3. (SBU) Following this press conference, GONG Deputy
Director Vanja Skoric told us that they have received ten new
individual complaints of fraudulent votes in BiH. GONG told
us that similar fraud was theoretically possible within
Croatia, but they had not received a single call or
allegation of such fraud in Croatian voting. Chief State
Prosecutor Mladen Bajic confirmed that he had launched an
investigation based on GONG's information, but noted that he
had no indication that the fraud was widespread and had not
received any complaints of voting irregularities in Croatia
or BiH other than those from GONG.



4. (SBU) The State Election Commission Chairman (and Supreme
Court Chief Justice) Ivica Crnic told us that so far, the
Commission's investigations of complaints had not/not
indicated any malfeasance by election workers. He said that
although no fraud was alleged by district voting commissions
containing HDZ members, the Commission had replaced all
members who had not properly declared their party membership.
Crnic also said that the Commission would also send
representatives to BiH to monitor voting procedures. GONG,
which had only two observers in all BiH for the first round,
told us they will send four mobile teams to observe eighteen
polling stations for the second round vote.

Minimal Impact


5. (SBU) The State Election Commission, GONG, and the State
Prosecutor all told us that the reported irregularities, if
proved true, could only have had minimal impact on the
elections. Our calculations indicate that President Mesic
would have won the election in the first round only if more
than 28,000 of the 77,000 diaspora vote (or over half the
56,000 in BiH) were fraudulently recorded for candidates
other than President Mesic. Further, even if all 46,000
diaspora votes for HDZ candidate Jadranka Kosor were
discarded, she still would have come in second. However, if
only domestic Croatia votes were counted, President Mesic
would have won in the first round with 14,000 votes over the
50 percent threshold.

Reform Possible?


6. (SBU) This scandal has brought renewed calls for electoral
reform. Sabor Speaker and HDZ leader Vladimir Seks told the
press that the time had come to change election laws,

particularly in rules governing voter registration. The NGO
Juris Protecta calculates that Croatia has just over four
million registered voters (inside Croatia, 4.4 million total
adding diaspora registered voters) but a voting age
population of closer to 3.5 million. Voter registries are
purged of duplicates at the county level but not at the
national level and there is no systematic purging of deceased
persons. Judge Crnic told us he had sent a letter to Prime
Minister Sanader and Speaker Seks last year warning of
deficiencies in the election system and urging the
development of a detailed, uniform voting process for
presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. Crnic has
long advocated the creation of a professional election
commission that would take over from the judiciary running

Comment: Mesic Likely Winner


7. (SBU) Polling in advance of Sunday's runoff shows
President Mesic with a comfortable 58-61 percent rating, with
Jadranka Kosor trailing far behind with 22-26 percent.
Although historically HDZ voters tend to hide their
intentions from pollsters, Mesic's lead appears
insurmountable. Voter anger over this scandal, and the
presumption that at least the BiH wing of the HDZ was
complicit, will likely fuel a pro-Mesic turnout on Sunday.