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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09BAGHDAD857
2009-03-30 09:10:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Baghdad
Cable title:  

IRAQ'S PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS: AN IRAQI SHOW, BUT

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  EAID  KDEM  IZ 
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VZCZCXRO3505
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0857/01 0890910
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 300910Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2441
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BAGHDAD 000857 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM EAID KDEM IZ
SUBJECT: IRAQ'S PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS: AN IRAQI SHOW, BUT
THERE WAS PLENTY OF U.S. HELP

Classified By: PMIN Robert Ford for reason 1.4 (d).



1. (C) Summary: Although the GOI was in the lead on the
successful January provincial elections, U.S. assistance
greatly facilitated the elections logistically and helped the
GOI to conduct the voting in a manner approximating
international norms. Our support for the Iraqi provincial
elections began well before the passage of the 2008
Provincial Election Law and continued to the announcement of
the certified results. In coordination with UNAMI, State,
USAID, the PRTs, MNF-I, and U.S.-funded NGOs such as the
National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International
Republican Institute (IRI), the International Foundation for
Electoral Systems (IFES), and the International Research and
Exchange Board (IREX) all helped to shape and support the
provincial elections. MNF-I helped with all aspects of
election security. Notablyit brokered and oversaw security
arrangements in disputed areas along the KRG borders on
election day. MNF-I also supported the transportation of all
elections materials, including route-planning, security and
tracking. MNF-I also led communications exercises to prepare
ISF for election day. In many of the provinces, MNF-I forces
provided secure transportation support for UNAMI staff and
over 300 international observers. As Coalition Forces begin
to leave, and as we move through a crowded Iraqi electoral
calendar, we will continue to provide substantial elections
assistance to the Iraqis, while carefully balancing it with
the need to have them in the lead. End Summary.



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


Advocacy and Legal Assistance


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





2. (C) The successful conduct of the recent provincial
elections has rightly been praised as an important step in
Iraq's political development. The Iraqi government deserves
great credit for this achievement. As we expect the Iraqis
to do more and more without us, however, it is important to
appreciate the degree to which the U.S. Government
contributed to this success. In early 2008, the Embassy
mobilized to advocate for and shape the draft Provincial
Elections Law. In July, the Speaker of the parliament
managed to pass the law by permitting a secret ballot on the
section relating to Kirkuk (now known as Article 23). Two
days later, President Talabani and Vice President Abdul Mehdi
vetoed the law and the Embassy shifted into high gear to
rescue the bill. In an effort to seek compromise, Embassy
and MNF-I personnel met with GOI officials, key political
party leaders, and members of parliament. Senior USG
officials also called on top leaders to find solutions. We
closely coordinated our efforts with the United Nations

Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI). There likely would not
have been elections at all without U.S. and UNAMI pressure,
since the major political blocs were not enthusiastic about
holding elections.



3. (SBU) The Embassy deployed numerous technical experts to
assist with drafting and the deliberative processes. The
Political Section's Office of Constitutional and Legislative
Affairs (CLA) and IFES each provided oral and written
analyses of drafts of the law, and presented option papers
requested by GOI law-makers. After weeks of effort by the
Embassy and UNAMI, parliament passed the election law on
September 24. The Presidency Council signed it but requested
an amendment to add minority representation, which UNAMI's
Electoral Assistance Team, with political and technical
assistance from the Embassy, helped to draft.

Q


4. (SBU) Interagency collaboration inside the Embassy and
between the Embassy and MNF-I and MNC-I produced the
provincial elections "Road Show," an informal presentation
delivered by POL and USAID to most of the 14 Provincial
Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), four provincial support teams
and 11 embedded PRTs. There were two rounds of the Road
Show. The spring tour provided Embassy policy guidance and
technical information on the election law. The fall "Road
Show" briefed on the mechanics of the elections and GOI
preparations. Both road shows identified USG assistance
options that helped PRTs undertake activities to support the
provincial elections. After the "Road Show" presentation,
every PRT identified an Elections Officer who developed a
close working relationship with the IHEC Governorate Election
Office (GEO) in their province. While relationships with GEO
Directors varied, overall the effort yielded a tremendous
amount of formal and informal reporting. The PRTs also
served as a focal point for elections-related technical
assistance. Through use of OPA's Quick Response Funds (QRF),
PRTs were able to support timely voter education and outreach
programs tailored to local communities and delivered by Iraqi
NGOs. For example, PRT Dhi Qhar funded the Iraqi Society for
Change NGO to provide voter education training to 2,000
university students and faculty. Through a QRF grant from

BAGHDAD 00000857 002 OF 004


PRT Maysan, the Forum for Civil Society Development provided
similar training to 14 other NGOs. PRT Ninewa funding
enabled the Iraq Institute for Development to conduct over
160 lectures for opinion leaders in each of the governorate's
districts on the electoral process and voting modalities.
PRTs also helped to connect USG-funded NGOs like IFES, NDI,
IRI and IREX with projects and opportunities in the
provinces.



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


Voter Education and Media Training


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





5. (U) The Embassy, through DRL, funded numerous efforts to
increase Iraqis' knowledge about voter registration, voting
procedures, and voting for special populations. The
International Republican Institute (IRI) conducted voter
education programs targeted at increasing voter turnout.
During the days running up to the elections, IRI published
mock ballots in newspapers and on billboards, funded TV and
radio spots, and worked through local NGO networks to go
door-to-door to encourage voting. In addition, the
International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) provided
critical support to IHEC throughout the elections period by
establishing and supporting Iraq's Independent High Electoral
Commission (IHEC) Media Center in Baghdad. All official
announcements on the provincial elections were managed
through the Media Center. Finally, the Institute for War and
Peace Reporting (IWPR) sharpened the skills of several
hundred Iraqi journalists by training on interviewing
techniques and political coverage.



6. (U) Understanding the vital need for voter education in
this election, USAID's Iraq Rapid Assistance Program (IRAP)
coordinated possibly the largest grass-root voter education
effort ever undertaken in Iraq. USAID estimates that over
four million Iraqis benefited from IRAP's support for
outreach on voter's rights as well as election processes and
laws. The Voter Education initiative provided grants for
training local Iraqi civil society organizations on how to
conduct outreach. It also added to roughly 5.5 million
dollars in grants for activities including literature,
posters, and program instruction across eleven
provinces. The countrywide Voter Education program was
conducted in collaboration with IHEC, IFES, and more than 170
civil society organizations and NGOs. IRAP Quick Release
Funds were used for over 2 million dollars in media outreach
grants, which covered additional election awareness via
public service announcements on TV, in the newspaper, and on
flyers, posters, and billboards.



7. (SBU) We do not have polling data tracking levels of
public understanding of the voting process over time that
would allow us to assess the effectiveness of U.S.-provided
voter education. However, IFES recently completed a
comparative analysis of invalid ballots in the provincial
elections. The number of invalid ballots -- those ballots
which are made invalid by being marked in a manner than makes
the voter's intent opaque -- is generally held to be a proxy
indicator of ballot design effectiveness and voter education
efforts. The average rate of invalid votes across the 14
governorates was 3.5 percent. IFES compared this number to
averages in similar regional elections and in post-conflict
elections. Iraq's voters performed at a higher than average
rate. (Some sample invalid ballot figures from elections
held in regional countries in the past two years: Morocco 19
percent; Algeria 14.4 percent; Cyprus 5.6 percent; Iraq 3.5
percent; Israel 3.5 percent; Turkey 2.8 percent). The report
Qpercent; Israel 3.5 percent; Turkey 2.8 percent). The report
notes that this achievement is all the more noteworthy since
this election was Iraq's first open list election.



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


Political Entities and Candidate Training


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





8. (U) IRI and NDI delivered nonpartisan, issues-based
political training for dozens of Iraqi organizations. NDI
conducted ballot training for party agents and domestic
monitors, including special concerns for illiterate voters.
More than 20,000 domestic observers received NDI training to
participate in the provincial elections and in future
elections. IRI recently reported that 67% of the candidates
who won provincial council seats were from parties that had
received IRI's party training.



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


Technical Assistance for IHEC


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





9. (U) USAID, through its implementer IFES, provided
comprehensive technical expertise to IHEC. IFES was
instrumental in elections planning, systems development, and

BAGHDAD 00000857 003 OF 004


in some cases direct support of operations. IFES provided
experience and technical expertise to enable IHEC to run a
complex election that approximately met internationally
acknowledged best practices and accepted norms. IFES also
converted the Ministry of Trade's food distribution list into
a draft voter roll, formulated regulations to enact the
Provincial Election Law, established IHEC's public outreach
department, developed methods for seat allocation to ensure
adequate minorities' and women's representation, built the IT
and communications infrastructure that links the GEOs to the
headquarters in Baghdad, developed standard operating
procedures, contributed to ballot design, established a
formal complaints process, and augmented IHEC's results
tallying capabilities.



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


Capacity Building for IHEC


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





10. (C) IFES and UNAMI together formed the International
Election Assistance Team (IEAT) in Iraq, whose mission is to
build IHEC's capacity. IHEC, established in April 2007, is
still a young organization with limited ability to
administer electoral events. Most agree IEAT's assistance
was instrumental to IHEC's success in carrying out the
complex, large-scale effort required to ensure the January 31
provincial elections were conducted at approximately
international (Western) standards. IEAT's capacity-building
efforts have included advising and mentoring IHEC's
nine-person Board of Commissioners and training staff in
IHEC's headquarters, 19 GEOs, and the Kurdish Regional
Elections Office (KREO), and built on elections assistance
efforts begun in 2005.



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


MNF-I Overwatch and Security


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





11. (C) Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) provided direct
support to Iraqi institutions before, during, and after
Iraq's provincial elections. MNF-I at times partnered with
other USG or UN agencies, and in some cases expanded Embassy
efforts. MNF-I focused on advising the Ministry of the
Interior (MoI) and the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on the
security of the elections. Much of its effort was focused on
the ad hoc Iraqi Supreme Committee for Election Security
(SCES) which dealt directly with IHEC. As part of this
effort, MNF-I assigned several Liaison Officers (LNOs), to
partner with Iraqi officials at the MOI, MOD, IHEC
headquarters, and in the 19 GEOs. At senior levels, MNF-I
met regularly with Iraqi officials on security issues. It
notably brokered and oversaw security arrangements in
disputed areas along the KRG borders on election day. MNF-I
supported the transportation of all elections materials,
including route-planning, security and tracking. MNF-I also
led communications exercises to prepare ISF for election day.
In many of the provinces, MNF-I forces provided secure
transportation support for UNAMI staff and over 300
international observers. The international observers only
trusted MNF-I for such logistical help. Without MNF-I, there
would have been no international observers.



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


International Election Observers


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





12. (C) To show support for the Iraqi process and to enhance
public confidence, the Embassy promoted and supported placing
over 400 international observers in the field in 18 provinces
on January 31. A modest proposal to place a handful of UNAMI
teams in the field eventually developed into a broad effort
with participation by over 25 countries and organizations.
In unprecedented partnership, the Embassy, PRTs and MNF-I
QIn unprecedented partnership, the Embassy, PRTs and MNF-I
carefully orchestrated logistical and security support for 11
UNAMI teams, 68 U.S. teams (some of which contained other
foreign observers), and over 20 additional foreign teams
operating independently of MNF-I movements (mainly in
Baghdad). The scope and magnitude of the U.S.-supported
election observer effort was broadly covered in the news
media and throughout Iraq. The observer effort resulted in
somewhat higher transparency, improved understanding, and
increased domestic confidence in the Iraqi elections. It
also showed that a large observer mission is possible as we
consider our possible options for the national elections at
the end of 2009 or it notably brokered and oversaw security
arrangements in disputed areas along the KRG borders on
election day. MNF-I supported the transportation of all
elections materials, including route-planning, security and
tracking. MNF-I also led communications exercises to prepare
ISF for election day. In many of the provinces, MNF-I forces
provided secure transportation support for UNAMI staff and
over 300 international observers.

BAGHDAD 00000857 004 OF 004





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


Comment


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





13. (C) The U.S. provided critical assistance that helped
IHEC conduct credible, legitimate elections on time and in a
way generally consistent with international best practices.
While Iraq led and managed the elections, it was not without
substantial support -- and frequent pressure -- from a wide
array of USG and international actors in the background.
Iraq faces a full elections agenda in 2009, including KRG
elections, district and sub-district elections,
Constitutional and Security Agreement referenda, and,
especially, parliamentary elections. We are currently
assessing our support for the provincial elections as we look
ahead to the parliamentary elections to determine what
worked, what didn't, and what the shape of U.S. elections
assistance will be as the military leaves. We want to
balance building Iraq's institutional capacity to conduct
elections with the political need for timely, credible, and
legitimate elections.

BUTENIS