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09KABUL254 2009-02-03 15:49:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kabul
Cable title:  

DECIDEDLY MIXED REACTION FROM POLITICIANS TO

Tags:   KDEM PGOV AF 
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INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 000254 

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CG CJTF-101, POLAD, JICCENT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV AF
SUBJECT: DECIDEDLY MIXED REACTION FROM POLITICIANS TO
AUGUST ELECTION

REF: A. KABUL 217

B. KABUL 181



1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Members of Parliament, political leaders,
and other political observers had a mixed reaction to the
Independent Election Commission's (IEC) announcement of
August 20 for presidential and provincial council elections
(ref A). IEC arguments that an earlier date would not allow
sufficient time to stabilize the security situation and
mobilize efforts for an open and transparent election appear
to have swayed many earlier opponents. Lower House Speaker
Yunus Qanooni and most of his United Front allies have
decided not to contest the IEC's authority to set a later
date, despite earlier threats to dispute the legitimacy of
any election held after May. Some MPs will continue to
protest the IEC's decision, but lack the political clout to
mount a serious challenge.



2. (SBU) With the resolution of the date debate, Qanooni and
other Karzai opponents will now focus efforts on challenging
the legality of Karzai remaining in office after May 22, the
day on which the Constitution suggests the presidential term
ends. Qanooni is pushing for Karzai to step aside in favor
of a transitional government. If his effort gains momentum
it could pose a threat to continuity of government and
introduce political ambiguity in the lead up to elections and
at the height of the fighting season. We will report on this
issue and potential resolutions septel.

Emerging Political Consensus in Support of IEC Announcement


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



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





3. (SBU) Members of Parliament, especially in the Lower House
where Karzai is extremely unpopular, had opposed the IEC's
efforts to set an election date after the spring timeframe
outlined in the Constitution. The IEC's security-based
arguments convinced many MPs to accept a later election date.
Other opposition members, led by Qanooni, decided it was no
longer politically advantageous to fan the debate. Lower
House Deputy Speaker Mirwais Yaseni (Nangarhar, Pashtun)
expressed reservations that the Constitution was again being
bent to accommodate political realities, but admitted there
was no better alternative. Influential MPs Haji Mohammed
Mohaqqeq (Kabul, Hazara) and Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf (Kabul,
Pashtun) supported the IEC's decision.



4. (SBU) Poloffs spoke with a group of women MPs soon after
the IEC's January 29 announcement on the August election
date. All eight -- representing a regional and ethnic
cross-section of Afghanistan -- supported the date. Rahima
Jamay (Herat, Tajik) said August would let more women
register to vote. Nasima Niazi (Helmand, Pashtun) hoped
security in her province would improve by the fall. A spring
election would have seen many Helmand residents unable or
unwilling to go to the polls amid threats from the Taliban.
In a separate conversation, MP Haji Ali Mohammad (Logar,
Pashtun) said August gives security forces an opportunity to
stabilize restive districts in his province before the
election.



5. (SBU) Abdul Jabbar Naeemi, a former governor of Wardak
province, agreed the delay was the only "practical" solution.
More time was needed for logistics planning and to wrap up
voter registration efforts. Although he supported Karzai's
re-election, Naeemi pointed out the extra months would give
opposition candidates more time to campaign and reduce the
chances they would cry foul over an abbreviated campaign
season.

Civil Society Groups React Favorably


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





6. (SBU) The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission
(AIHRC) had taken an official position that the election
should take place in March or April. However, AIHRC
Commissioner Nader Naderi said AIHRC recognized security
conditions precluded holding a fair and free election in the
constitutionally mandated timeframe.



7. (SBU) Laila Langari of the Afghan Women's Network welcomed
the IEC announcement, saying current security conditions in
the south would prevent most women from voting. An August
election would allow more time to secure voting places and
give civil society groups greater opportunity to raise public

KABUL 00000254 002 OF 002


awareness. She predicted, however, that fewer people would
participate in this election than in the 2004 presidential
election because they were less hopeful and security
conditions were worse.



8. (SBU) Foundation for Culture and Civil Society Director
Timor Hakimyar echoed many of Langari's points, saying the
additional time would give government and Coalition Forces
more time to improve security, expanding Afghan
participation. He suggested civil society groups could
increase public awareness through advertising and educational
workshops.

Some Holdouts Remain


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





9. (SBU) Several Lower House MPs spoke out against the IEC's
decision in Parliament and to the media. MP Fazal Karim
Aimaq (Kunduz, Tajik) said the IEC had violated the
Constitution by moving the date past the spring. MPs Kabir
Ranjbar (Kabul, Pashtun), Shukria Barakzai (Kabul, Pashtun),
and Fawzia Koofi (Badakhshan, Tajik) agreed and said they
would seek legal means to block the IEC's decision. Those
criticizing the new election date, however, did so as
individuals and did not present a unified plan to challenge
the IEC. Without the backing of Qanooni or other United
Front leaders, these MPs will likely be unable to organize an
effective opposition or push their complaints through a
judicial system that has been reluctant to weigh in on
constitutional matters.



10. (SBU) Most independent daily newspapers reported
negatively on the IEC decision. Arman-e-Milli (circulation:
4,600) said the IEC was a tool of Karzai's. The normally
pro-government Erada Daily (circulation: 3,000) said the
government's failure to provide security over the last seven
years did not bode well for efforts to improve security over
the next few months. Nevertheless, like most MPs who oppose
the August date, the newspapers provided no credible
alternative nor disputed the IEC's point that a spring
election would lead to lower turnout.
WOOD