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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08LILONGWE480
2008-08-13 13:17:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Lilongwe
Cable title:  

MALAWI - ELECTION PREPARATIONS MOVING FORWARD

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  MI 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO9669
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHLG #0480/01 2261317
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131317Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5447
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000480 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM MI
SUBJECT: MALAWI - ELECTION PREPARATIONS MOVING FORWARD

REF: A) LILONGWE 158, B) LILONGWE 157



1. (U) This is an action request. Please see paragraphs 8 and 9.



2. (SBU) Summary: After a period of uncertainty due to budget
disputes and slow-moving donor contributions, the Malawi Electoral
Commission (MEC) is now on track to hold successful elections in May


2009. The U.S. Mission has played a key role in engaging the MEC on
the issue of observation, encouraging early letters of invitations
to diplomatic missions, coordinating observer accreditation and
training, and observing the initial training of election
registration staff. Voter registration will run from August 18
through December with the only international observers coming from
diplomatic missions in Malawi. No organizations have yet committed
to observe the campaign and polling periods in 2009, but
international observers will be critical to monitor the sure-to-be
contentious election next May.



--------------------------


MEC Back On Track


--------------------------





3. (SBU) After several months of uncertainty over the MEC's budget,
money from both the government of Malawi (GOM) and foreign aid
donors has begun to flow. The MEC has successfully procured its
$8.6 million USD computerized voter registration system. Staff
training is underway in preparation for an August 18 start to the
six-phase registration exercise that will canvas the country until
December.



4. (U) Malawi's electoral budget will be $35.7 million USD with
donor contributions totaling 48% of the budget. A July 2 project
support agreement between the GOM and the United Nations Development
Program (UNDP) on behalf of election trust fund (ETF) donors (U.S.,
U.K., Ireland, Norway, European Union, Germany, and the U.N.) paved
the way for many of the donors to finalize funding plans and begin
disbursing funds. (Comment: The USG has already contributed
$475,000 USD to the election trust fund for voter education in FY
2008 and plans to contribute a similar amount in FY 2009.)
Additionally, the GOM disbursed its entire $4.2 million USD 2007/8
contribution and has front-loaded the recently passed four-month
interim budget so election costs can be funded with minimal
disruption from the ongoing impasse in the National Assembly.



--------------------------


U.S. Mission Pushing MEC on Observers


--------------------------





5. (SBU) The U.S. Mission has taken the lead on engaging the MEC on
the issue of election process observation. The MEC stated early on
that it would invite diplomatic missions and international
observers, but the invitations remained unsent in mid-June. After

numerous meetings, including one between the Ambassador and the
Chairperson of the MEC, on June 27, the MEC formally invited all
diplomatic missions to observe all facets of the election process.
The MEC has indicated that it will invite international
organizations that express an interest in observing as well, however
only the European Union has so far received an invitation.



6. (SBU) Gaining an invitation to observe the process is only half
the battle. The MEC, understandably preoccupied with securing its
funding streams and finalizing procurement agreements, announced all
observers would need to be accredited yet did not provide a plan to
do the accreditation. Emboff coordinated a meeting of all ETF
donors plus representatives of Canada and South Africa to formulate
a plan for accreditation and briefing on the electoral process.
Emboff and the MEC ultimately agreed to accreditation and badging of
observers in Lilongwe, followed by a briefing for a small group from
each mission who would act as coordinators for their respective
organizations. The briefing is scheduled to take place on August 15,
just in time to begin observation of the registration process.
Since the MEC asked that diplomatic missions accredit people now,
even to only observe the May polling, the U.S. Mission plans to
accredit over 60 staff and has developed a plan with the MEC to
accredit new arrivals to post later in the process.



7. (SBU) Emboffs also attended one of the MEC staff training held on
August 8 in Lilongwe. Outside of the briefing for diplomatic
observers, the MEC was not offering any other training except for
its staff. Political parties and domestic observers were invited to
observe staff training, but it is unclear how many did so. At the
training, emboffs observed training of over 150 staff on the
registration process including how to set up and use the new photo
and biometric equipment. Despite the large group, the trainers were
well-versed and the lecture was followed by hands-on training with
the equipment.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Comment: Election Prep Has Domestic Attention, Yet to Reach
International Conscienceness.


--------------------------



--------------------------




LILONGWE 00000480 002 OF 002




8. (SBU) Comment: With over 4000 polling and registration centers,
most far from the capital, diplomatic mission observers will only be
able to provide a spot check on the process. Emboffs have reached
out to the National Initiative on Civic Education (NICE), an
EU-funded GOM organization who will monitor all centers and NICE has
agreed to provide interim reports to the diplomatic missions. As a
government organization though, NICE's reports may not be
independent and it remains to be seen how quickly
NICE will be able to notify the MEC of problems. In what is sure to
be a contentious election, independent international observers will
be needed to lend credibility to the elections.



9. (SBU) While progress toward the elections is being made, the MEC
continues to be understaffed and have significant capacity issues.
Some of these will be helped by the hiring of new staff over the
next few months and technical assistance funded through the ETF, but
Malawi's fourth national election finds the country still with a
paucity of experience. We believe that international election
observers are still a pressing need to provide credibility to the
electoral process in Malawi. We request that the Department
continue to consider all available options, whether publicly or
privately financed, to field a team of qualified observers for
Malawi's 2009 elections to help reduce the risks of fraud and
violence. As evidenced through our own interactions with the MEC,
the earlier prospective observers can be identified, the easier it
will be for the Embassy to continue its work with the MEC to secure
invitations and accreditation.

EASTHAM