Viewing cable 09BAGHDAD140, ERBIL RRT: DOHUK IDPS SPEAK ON UPCOMING ELECTIONS
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
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P 200637Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1289
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 000140
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SUBJECT: ERBIL RRT: DOHUK IDPS SPEAK ON UPCOMING ELECTIONS
This is an Erbil Regional Reconstruction Team cable.
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Christian, Yezidi and Arab IDPs in Dohuk Province want to participate in the upcoming provincial elections, but have questions and doubts about the electoral process. Personal experience of fraud in the 2005 elections makes many skeptical of the legitimacy of election results. IDPs do not anticipate any election-related violence in Dohuk Province but believe that violence in Ninewa Province (from where most of the IDPs hail) could heavily suppress voter turn-out there. Dohuk contains the largest concentration of IDPs (relative to its size) in the Kurdistan Region (KR) and has the highest number of IDP voters registered in the KR (32,500). The Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) has encouraged local IHEC authorities to improve outreach to IDP communities in Dohuk. End Summary.
MEETINGS WITH IDP GROUPS
¶2. (U) RRT Provincial Action Officer (RRTOff) met with
representatives of Arab, Christian and Yezidi IDP communities in
Dohuk on December 22 and 28 to discuss the upcoming provincial
elections. Although the KR will not hold elections in January, IHEC will provide absentee voting services to IDPs in the KR. According to the March 2008 UNHCR Working Group on IDPs Report, Dohuk has approximately 238,000 IDPs, of which 130,000 arrived after December
¶2005. Dohuk is second only to Sulaimaniyah in number of IDPs in the KR and has the highest concentration relative to the size of its population. It also has the largest number of minority (primarily Christian) IDPs (estimated at 16 percent). According to the Dohuk GEO, Dohuk has 32,500 registered IDP voters - the largest number of registered IDP voters in the KR. Eighty-five percent of those registered IDPs are from Ninewa Province.
¶3. (SBU) IDPs interviewed wanted to vote in the upcoming provincial elections, but still had many questions about the process. Problems with registration led them to conclude that the government was not sincere in seeking their participation. RRTOff heard that some IDPs had visited voter registration centers during the official registration update period but had not been permitted to add their names to the roster. (NOTE: RRTOff raised this issue with the Dohuk GEO, who requested the names of the specific voter registration. He noted, however, that anyone who had failed to come to a voting center during the registration period would not be able to vote on the day of the election. There appears to be some confusion here as Iraqis registered as IDPs who hold a food ration card would have been automatically registered to vote at designated IDP polling centers. END NOTE.) Others complained that the registration update period was too short to accommodate all of the IDPs, and that it did not accommodate those IDPs who fled after the
uptick in Mosul violence in October.
QUESTIONS ON PROCESS
¶4. (SBU) In addition to problematic registration, it appeared from the interviews that there are still significant gaps in
understanding of the electoral process. Most had never seen a
representative from the Dohuk Governorate Electoral Office (GEO), and none had seen a mock-up of the ballot. Participants did not know off-hand the location of voting centers. (Only the Yezidi IDPs knew where their assigned voting centers were located, and that was because the Yezidi cultural center held a special seminar on that subject.) Logistical difficulties were also cited, such as a lack of Qsubject.) Logistical difficulties were also cited, such as a lack of transportation.
DOUBTS ON UTILITY
¶5. (SBU) Doubt as to the utility of the elections was a common
theme. Some IDPs questioned whether their votes would even be
counted if they did not cast their ballots in their provinces of
origin. Participants recalled specific instances of fraud (such as money offered for votes) in the 2005 elections and questioned
whether votes would be counted as they cast them. They placed
little faith in voting center monitors because, "those who want to commit fraud have already determined how they are going to do it, long before the day of the election." Some IDPs expressed the view that both the Government of Iraq (GOI) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) wanted to use the elections to influence any upcoming referenda on the disputed areas. A participant reported an attempt by the Ishtar list to offer money in exchange for votes. Participants had heard that the Kurdish Brotherhood List had done this as well, but had no first-hand reports.
FEARS OF ELECTION-RELATED VIOLENCE
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¶6. (SBU) Representatives from all three communities believed that the IDP elections in Dohuk would be peaceful and uneventful. However, they uniformly expressed concerns about election-related violence in Ninewa Province. Some estimated that as much as 90 percent of the population would stay away from the polls in Ninewa province. (Comment: On the contrary, we think voter turn-out in Ninewa will be robust. End comment.) They expressed fears that the Iraqi Army and/or Iraqi Police in Ninewa were already infiltrated with terrorists who would use violence to intimidate potential voters from going to the polls. If the low-turnout that the IDPs expected occurred, they would question the legitimacy of the election's results. Arab IDP representatives said that the presence of the U.S. military in Ninewa would send a message that the voting
centers were safe.
BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME STILL NOT ENOUGH FOR MINORITIES
¶7. (SBU) Though discouraged by a problematic registration period and expectations of an outcome that they already believe will fall short of their hopes, the IDPs intended to go to the polls. Nonetheless, Assyrian and Yezidi representatives complained that they had only been allocated one seat each on the Ninewa Provincial Council. Meeting participants said that their single representative would not have the political weight necessary to influence provincial council decisions, should their respective communities' interests run counter to the majority. When asked if their communities would run candidates on other lists, the representatives said that they would.
However, they did not believe those candidates would be in a
position to defend their respective communities' interests either because the candidates would be beholden to the parties on whose lists they ran. An informal tally showed that the Assyrian IDPs would vote en masse for the Assyrian Democratic Movement candidate, while the Yezidi IDPs seemed likely to support the Ninewa Kurdish Brotherhood list.
¶8. (U) IDP groups reported that campaigning was limited to
television spots, with candidates appearing on stations affiliated with their group. They had not seen any posters or other "street-level" publicity.
MEETING WITH DOHUK GEO HEAD
¶9. (SBU) In a December 28 meeting, Bayar Doski, head of the Dohuk GEO, reported to RRTOff that there will be 32 voting centers housing 96 voting stations at schools throughout the province. IHEC will employ 725 people (teachers and lawyers) to supervise the elections. Doski stated that information will be published through the local media about the location of the voting centers approximately 10-20 days before the election (so that the information will be fresh in the minds of the people.) Doski also reported that IHEC has been encouraging the various media outlets in the KR to come to the IHEC to apply for their poll-coverage accreditation.
¶10. (SBU) Mr. Doski explained that each of the GEOs implements an information campaign designed by UNOPS, in which they engage
specific groups in the community on the electoral process. He has been conducting those sessions with the Provincial Council, youth, women and representatives from the religious communities, but sessions are always poorly attended. He would rather have sessions that specifically target the IDP community, but has not been given the budget with which to do this. Doski was frustrated with the Qthe budget with which to do this. Doski was frustrated with the one-size-fits-all model that the Baghdad IHEC has created for the provinces. He reported that he is not even allowed to engage the local media without IHEC's permission, which he believes has compromised his office's ability to publicize information about the elections.
¶11. (SBU) COMMENT: Since the voter registration period began, both the GEO and the IDPs the GEO serves have complained that IHEC has neither the budget nor the flexibility to retool the program to meet the needs of IDPs. Although Dohuk IDPs have relatively high rates of registration relative to their population size, it is nonetheless troubling to hear so many people (in an already small population) having had negative experiences in the run-up to the election. While the Dohuk GEO seems to be genuinely committed to following the rules and hopes to do more outreach in the coming month, the crucial period has already ended. RRT raised IDP concerns with Dohuk GEO head, and he indicated that he would try to follow up with them.
RRT has also shared these concerns with United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) contacts in Erbil. RRT will continue to monitor election preparations and will follow up with IDPs after the elections to ascertain their on-the-ground experience.