Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Afghanistan’s Electoral Fraud Costs

Afghan Wolesi Jirga election was expected to be more transparent, reliable and fairer than the previous elections to rebuild public trust to the electoral institutions. However, it changed to be one of the worst electoral mismanagement cases in the course of the history of the elections in Afghanistan.
There is no doubt Electoral integrity is a central building block for the quality of democracy in general, and for electoral freedom and fairness in particular because it ensures that voters will not consider elections suffering from obvious fraud as meaningful as electoral contests which do not show signs of such defects. These fraudulent practices, in turn, also influence voters’ level of satisfaction with the way democracy works. Although intuitive in theory, the impact of electoral fraud on voters’ attitudes has received scant comparative empirical attention to date. Understanding this relationship is of crucial importance considering that variations in SWD are consequential factors that undergird both the consolidation and the stability of democracies.
According to studies manifestations of electoral fraud affect individuals by constraining the electoral choices available and by adding a layer of arbitrariness between citizens’ preferences and their translation into seats. We posit that electoral fraud in general acts as an additional filter hindering citizens from shaping policy outcomes, and is likely to affect perceptions of accountability and responsiveness. Under conditions of electoral fraud, electoral figures can no longer be considered reliable expressions of the general will but become by-products of electoral manipulation. Moreover, given that electoral fraud is said to undermine the functioning of democracy, general manifestations of electoral malpractice should negatively impact citizens’ SWD.
Studies show that the relationship between electoral integrity and levels of SWD is conditioned by the results of the elections for two reasons. First, there is abundant evidence that, at the individual level, being on the winning side of an election is influential for political attitudes, such as SWD. As a result, winning in this context is mostly about voting for a party or person who forms the executive suggests that although perceptions of the fairness of decision-making processes impact citizens’ acceptance of its outcome, this effect is substantially smaller than the perceived utility of the outcome. In the case of elections, winning has probably the highest possible utility and should therefore matter more than the degree of procedural fairness attached to them; For instance, research show that the negative linkage between SWD and corruption has been weaker among those who had voted for the winning party in the previous election, suggesting that winning could be more important than fair and impartial procedures.
Other accounts of the determinants of political legitimacy, however, stress the importance of procedural factors. Studies also show the importance of general governance (including corruption control, rule of law and government effectiveness) in citizens’ assessment of the legitimacy of states. Empirical evidence is therefore mixed when it comes to the relationship between SWD, the importance of fair procedures, and the question of winning or losing an election.
Moreover, some contributions have established that institutions condition the relationship between election victory and SWD: winners of an election in majoritarian systems are more satisfied with democracy than winners in consensual systems while the inverse relationship holds for those who lose. Therefore, electoral fraud is a breach of procedural impartiality that will influence SWD negatively, but that winning an election could change the shape of this relationship and have a positive effect on SWD – irrespective of the degree of electoral misconduct.
In a nutshell, winning an election will also affect SWD irrespective of the quality of elections. Voters are interested in policy gains, regardless of whether these gains come at the price of electoral fraud. Therefore, while electoral fraud should negatively impact SWD in general, this relationship should weaken for those voters who vote for the winning party in fraudulent elections. Finally, Afghanistan must work on institutional reforms that might improve the effectiveness and sustainability of government monitoring efforts. And perhaps more practically, it must identify and operationalize innovative uses of technology to quickly gather information on corruption, waste, and abuse is a promising direction for research and for policy.