PP RUEHDBU RUEHPW
DE RUEHBUL #1100 1201415
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301415Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8692
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS KABUL 001100
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM AF SUBJECT: ABDULLAH CAMPAIGN STUCK ON VP CHOICES
REF: KABUL 1094
1. (SBU) Campaign staffers for United Front (UF) presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah hope to lock in vice presidential nominees by May 2 and register their candidate with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) by May 4. Several UF top choices for the First Vice President position have turned down the UF's offers, while its choice for 2nd Vice President, Hazara leader Haji Mohammed Mohaqqeq, has yet to commit. Abdullah has moved to woo Nangarhar Governor Gul Aqa Sherzai to drop his own bid for the presidency and join the UF ticket.
2. (SBU) Former Lower House MP Saleh Registani, who resigned from Parliament last month to focus on the Abdullah campaign, told PolOff of the UF's thus far unsuccessful efforts to secure a strong candidate for the First Vice President slot. Registani noted Pashtun royalist Mustapha Zahir had turned down Abdullah's offer to join the campaign and now sided with President Karzai. Registani said Abdullah would now approach Nangarhar Governor Sherzai, suggesting Abdullah might offer Sherzai significant influence over the "Loya Kandahar" region, specifically the authority to appoint local officials and direct security policy in the Kandahar area. Sherzai will be in Kabul this week to discuss the UF's proposal. Registani admitted the defections of UF members Zahir and Marshall Fahim to Karzai's campaign hurt the vice presidential search (reftel).
3. (SBU) Repeated UF efforts to merge campaigns with former Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, Lower House Deputy Speaker Mirwais Yaseni, and former Finance Ministers Ashraf Ghani and Anwarulhaq Ahadi have failed. Although Karzai's team is expected to come out on top during the first round of balloting, the UF leadership now sees its best strategy as keeping major opposition candidates in the race to draw votes away from Karzai in the initial round, keeping him under 50 percent of the total vote and thus forcing a second round. The UF believes Abdullah would capture second place in first round voting and would then move to resume negotiations with other major contenders during the period before the second round in October, with Abdullah angling to receive the lion's share of support from those candidates who did not make the cut.
4. (SBU) Registani did not expect any problems in formally registering Abdullah's campaign next week. He and other top lieutenants had contacted UF offices in 17 provinces and requested each office collect 500-1,000 signatures. Within three days, the campaign had well exceeded the necessary 10,000. The UF hopes to have campaign offices opened in all 34 provinces within three weeks. RICCIARDONE