Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, May 26th, 2019

IEC Failure to Announce Timely Election Results Cast Doubt on Validity of Vote Counting Process


 IEC Failure to Announce Timely Election Results Cast Doubt  on Validity of Vote Counting Process

Afghan Parliamentary elections held on 20th October 2018 had been touted to be one of the most efficient and organized elections in country’s history, but the whole electoral process has been a failure right from the onset when IEC started registration of voters in cities, major population centers, districts and villages across Afghanistan – where security allowed for their operations – to conducting elections on election day and the way present counting of votes is running and overdue elections results are handled.  People of Afghanistan had pinned high hopes to the 20th October parliamentary elections because of several reasons, 1) they wanted to get rid of the present parliament, which is known as a pit of corrupt individuals who made business deals, suited their personal interests, employed their family and kinship on important key government position in return for their vote of confidence to appoint ministers or waving of green cards to pass certain legislations etc., and 2) they wanted to elect educated, clean handed, honest and hardworking individuals who could stand to face prevailing challenges Afghanistan is facing at present. It was these inspiring agenda which encouraged millions of Afghans – men and women – to come out and register their names at certain polling stations in cities, districts and villages across the country. IEC / IECC and Government of Afghanistan had responded to demands from political parties to introduce ‘biometric machines’ during voting day. These machines were brought in to make sure fraud and election rigging was prevented. Individuals across the country had accepted new rules of IEC to be background-checked before they were allowed to nominate to contest for a seat in the parliament. These procedures were tedious and tiring, but in order to bring change and break the present stalemate in the country, men and women stood out to go through them and nominate themselves to contest for a seat in the parliament.   
Government security institutions badly failed to level playing fields for electoral process to take place in a normal environment. Those provinces which were relatively calm, including Kabul, had suffered checkered security incidents, but they have done well. The main challenges before government security institutions had been provinces which were besieged by Taliban insurgents including Kunduz, Helmand, Baghlan, Ghazni and few others. A case in point of total failure on the part of government to provide conducive security environment was Kunduz province. It took eight months since electoral process started in March 2018 when candidates started to register for contesting parliamentary elections till the election day on 20th  October, but government did nothing the widen government control to areas around major population centers. Government control remains less than twenty percent of the total province. Taliban rule starts right after three kilometer around Kunduz city, and less than one kilometer around district centers. Worse of all, Taliban insurgents remain in control of overall situation in the province. Their regulations are followed by mobile phone operating companies and most of ordinary civilians who live under their rules. It was expected that more than twenty thousand army and police personnel who are stationed in Kunduz, would start military operations against insurgent groups to expand writ of government deep into population centers, which are under Taliban insurgent control. But nothing like this happened. It seemed like conspiracy and ordinary people started asking government hadn’t done anything to push back insurgents from the brink of the city and major population centers out in the districts. As a result, Taliban insurgents organized killer squads who could easily entered city centers and knocked at the doors of candidates and their campaigners. They would take campaigners one by one out of their homes and shot them at blank-point few hundred yards away from their homes. More than thirty-five individuals were target-killed during registration process in March and April. Worse was to come on elections day on twenty October! Taliban attacked Kunduz city and district centers across the province killing and injuring more than two hundred civilians – mostly those who were employee of IEC, candidates campaigners, representatives and people who wanted to vote. In one such incidents, Taliban armed personnel simply visited one of the pooling booth located five hundred meters from the nearby government police post, took five female civilians with them, who had come to vote, shaved their heads and killed them at blank-point, and also injured ten people including candidates observers. Apart from very few local news and social media, which covered very limited security incidents, the real scale and depth of casualties were not covered by any media outlets during or after elections day – a total media blackout persisted! Taliban insurgents would post their armed personnel roaming freely on main highways and some district centers and communicate military progress / orders to their men across the province. It looked like the whole province was going to fall to Taliban insurgents on the day of elections.
This situation has sabotaged elections all over the province. More than hundred and fifty thousand voters who had registered themselves could not come out of to vote. Taliban insurgents had sanctioned elections and warned ordinary civilians they would be killed or heavily fined if anyone caught doing campaign, represent a candidate or work at IEC. They blocked all roads and access routes that led to cities and major population centers. Armed men associated with Taliban were openly patrolling access roads between district centers. In the face of this active threat only twenty-five thousands managed to vote for more than ninety candidates who had been registered across the province! In addition, strong men and existing parliament members all of whom re-registered and contested elections, had used at their will and prerogative government provided vehicles, arms and their influence on security institutions in the province in couple of districts including Imam Saheb and Khan-abad, who had filled ballot boxes at will – even without biometric registration. This opportunity was provided to them by Taliban attack where all observers had covered for their lives in nearby shelters and ballot boxes were left exposed for exploitation. In the backdrop of these incidents, candidates in Kunduz province continue to protest these riggings and frauds, and have asked IEC and government not to count those votes which are not accompanied with biometric slips.
Such incidents have repeated themselves in many provinces across the country. As if this whole fiasco was not enough, government and IEC continue to play foul and keep delaying announcement of parliamentary elections results for almost a month now! These notorious tactics have allowed for rumors to seep through such as ‘government will delay elections results announcement until after Presidential elections scheduled for late March 2019 as it fears strong men will react during presidential elections in the event they failed to make way to parliament’, and that ‘parliamentary elections will take place anew in order to allow Taliban representatives to contest in the event a peace deal is reached’. In a democratic set up, people are empowered and have all the rights to know about events that affect their lives. Elections are the most important phenomena in a democratic society. Playing foul with this important pillar of democracy is an insult to the people. Government should at once come out and share with people whatever is holding elections results, and also update the nation about progress about ongoing peace process with insurgents.

Mohammed Gul Sahibbzada is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammed.g.sahibbzada@gmail.com

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