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Viewing cable 07SANJOSE1771, COSTA RICA'S CAFTA REFERENDUM: A PRIMER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07SANJOSE1771 2007-09-26 14:02 2011-03-02 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-02/Investigacion.aspx
VZCZCXYZ0043
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #1771/01 2691419
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261419Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8941
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 001771 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA, WHA/CEN, WHA/EPSC, USOAS AND INR 
PLEASE PASS TO USTR:AMALITO 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR ETRD CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA'S CAFTA REFERENDUM: A PRIMER 
 
REF: A) SAN JOSE 0830, B) SAN JOSE 1571 
 
1. SUMMARY:  With Costa Rica's CAFTA referendum less than two weeks 
away, the following is a basic review of the procedures and rules of 
the game for this first-ever national plebiscite on this issue and 
in this country.  This information updates our earlier reporting on 
referendum technicalities (Ref A).  END SUMMARY. 
 
2. VOTING DAY:  The referendum will take place on Sunday, October 7. 
 Polls are to be   open from 0600-1800 local.  At closing time, only 
those "in the act" of voting will be able to do so.  Unlike in the 
U.S., those still in line at 1800 will not be able to cast their 
ballot.  (This is to synchronize the preliminary vote count as 
closely as possible.)  The day of the week, the hours of voting and 
the overall procedures are typical of "regular" Costa Rican 
elections.  Voting will take place in 4,932 locations around the 
country, mostly in schools.  The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) is 
funding bus service nationwide so that voters can get to their 
voting locations for free.  Employers of those working on referendum 
day are required to give employees time off to vote. 
 
3.  THE VOTERS:  All Costa Ricans 18 years or older on October 7 are 
eligible to participate.  At the close of registration on June 30, 
there were approximately 2.65 million eligible voters for the 
referendum (the electoral padron).  Voting is mandatory, according 
to the Constitution, but sanctions are rarely enforced. 
 
3.  THE BALLOT AND THE QUESTION:  Voters will mark a simple paper 
ballot in either the yes or no box.  (Copy emailed to WHA/CEN.)  The 
question (informal translation):  Do you approve the Dominican 
Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement, 
legislative No 16047, according to the text approved by the 
Committee on International Relations and Foreign Trade of the 
Legislative Assembly, published in Section 2 of Gazette No 19 of 
January 26, 2007. 
 
4.  THE QUESTION AND THE CLAUSES:  Voters in essence will act as a 
legislature of the whole, approving not the CAFTA treaty per se, but 
the complete treaty package, including 17 interpretative clauses, 
which was approved by the International Relations Committee on 
December 12, 2006 (and officially gazetted one month later).  This 
distinction, although raised by a few commentators, has not made an 
appreciable impact on voters.  The preamble to the clauses states 
that they are not intended to amend or modify CAFTA (which is not 
permitted), but to clarify certain aspects of the agreement in light 
of the domestic political debate.  In effect, the pro-CAFTA 
coalition intended these clauses to bust some of the anti-CAFTA 
myths. 
 
5.  THE TURNOUT:  This is a key factor in whether or not the 
referendum is binding.  For the result to be binding, at least 40 
percent of the registered voters (or approximately 1.06 million) 
must cast their ballots.  Blank and null ballots will count towards 
the participation total.  If less than 40 percent participate, CAFTA 
will be returned to the Asamblea for handling as a regular treaty. 
Both the Si and No camps are expected to mobilize their supporters 
and help them get to the polls.  Both sides also expect turnout to 
exceed 40 percent 
 
6.  THE MONITORS:   The voting and tabulation will be heavily 
scrutinized, as is the custom with Costa Rican elections.  Over 
47,000 scrutineers (fiscales) and observadores (whose function is 
very similar) have been accredited from 22 political parties, 
including the eight represented in the Asamblea.  Some will be 
assigned to particular voting locations.  Others will be authorized 
to circulate among voting venues.  The opposition PAC party tops the 
list with over 15,000 registered fiscales.  In addition, a number of 
bilateral international observers have registered, as well as a 
fairly large (30-member) OAS delegation, and a team from CAPEL.  A 
few Embassy officers (2-4) will be included in the OAS delegation. 
Overall, the TSE expects approximately 55 international observers. 
Because of the political controversy surrounding the referendum, and 
the unique nature of the event, TSE officials tell us they will be 
extra careful in monitoring this vote. 
 
7. THE OPINION POLLS:  No opinion polls may be published after 
October 4.  No exit polls may be taken on referendum day. 
 
8.  THE RESULTS:  The Supreme Election Tribunal (TSE) expects to 
begin announcing preliminary results after a ceremony at 2000 local 
(2200 in Washington).  Some 30 percent of the votes may be tabulated 
by then, and the results will be updated throughout the night.  If 
the voting is close, it may take until after midnight (0200 October 
8 Washington time) before the overall results are known.  (This is 
what happened in the 2006 presidential elections.)  The simple 
ballot should facilitate and speed up the tabulation, according to 
the TSE.  The mandatory manual recount, necessary to confirm the 
official results, will begin on October 8 and must be completed 15 
days later (NLT October 23).  For transparency, the TSE will 
broadcast the recount daily on the government's television station 
and on line. 
 
9.  HOW TO WIN (OR LOSE):   A plurality of votes cast is required 
for either side to win.  If the pro-CAFTA vote wins, the treaty will 
be considered ratified, pending approval and validation of the 
results by the TSE, and, routine processing through the Asamblea and 
publication in the official gazette, as with any new law.  If the 
anti-CAFTA vote wins, the treaty is tabled and there will be no 
further action on it.  In the event of a tie, CAFTA will be returned 
to the Asamblea for handling as a regular treaty. 
 
10.  IT IS NOT OVER ON OCTOBER 7:  After a "Si" win (which at this 
point is not guaranteed) the Asamblea must still complete the GOCR's 
implementing legislation in order for CAFTA to enter into force. 
This looks increasingly unlikely by March 1, 2008 (Ref B), even if 
the referendum ratifies the treaty by a politically-decisive margin. 
 In addition, many of the implementing laws may face mandatory 
review by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV). 
 Although the Court ruled 5-2 on July 3 that CAFTA itself is not 
unconstitutional, challenges to the implementing legislation may be 
possible. 
LANGDALE