This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
AFGHANISTAN – Governance and Participation 18 September 2010 Parliamentary Elections and the Risk of Fraud Anne-Catherine Claude- Governance and Justice Knowledge Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org) (www.cimicweb.org) , CLICK HERE The September 18 parliamentary elections in Afghanistan are a crucial test for the government of Hamid Karzai. In 2009, the presidential and provincial council elections were characterized by widespread fraud, which in turn was a critical blow to the Afghan government’s legitimacy. The country’s deeply flawed polls have significantly eroded public confidence in the electoral process and in the international community’s commitment to building a democratic Afghanistan. According to the International Crisis Group and other organisations, due to massive fraud, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) had to disqualify nearly a quarter of the overall votes (1.2 million1) cast, the vast majority of which were for Hamid Karzai. This is the second Afghan-led election to take place, with continued support from the international community. In line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1917 (2010), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is providing overall coordination and support for the elections. Through the programme Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) takes the lead in coordinating international support for the Independent Election Commission’s (IEC) electoral operations (such as support to the IEC for operational planning, procurement, development of procedures as well as training and logistics). UNDP also coordinates support related to other areas of the election, including, for example, for electoral observers, political parties and the media. Following the 2009 elections, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe - Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR) and the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM), among others, produced comprehensive reports about the elections and put forward recommendations for the 2010 parliamentary elections with a view to strengthen the process and avoid widespread fraud in the September 2010 elections. Among the most important recommendations given to prevent massive fraud, both the OSCEODIHR and the EU-EOM urged the Afghan government to: Ensure the independence and transparency of the Independent Election Commission (IEC). During the 2009 elections, the IEC failed to implement its tasks in an independent and impartial manner because some of its decisions raised doubts about its neutrality. For instance, the International Crisis Group reported that in some polling stations where
Electoral Complaints Commission, Final Report, 2009 Presidential and Provincial Council Elections, p.10
there were no observers (either international or domestic), IEC staff stuffed ballots into boxes by the thousands. Strengthen the accuracy and reliability of voter registration. The creation of a reliable and accurate voter system is crucial to ensure universal and equal suffrage and to safeguard against fraud. According to the National Democratic Institute (NDI), in preparations for the 2009 elections, the UN spent over USD 100 million to improve voter registration, but it appeared that, for example, some candidates paid women in particular, to obtain multiple voter cards because no photo is required for the female card. The EU-EOM also reported that updating voter registration in 2009 resulted in the issuance of some 4.7 million additional voter cards, which together with the previous 12.5 million meant that well over 17 million voter cards were in circulation. Of these, several millions are likely to have been duplicates. A biometrics-based mechanism to detect multiple registrations was put in place to prevent this occurrence. However, the IEC did not manage to complete the database before the elections, but it was nevertheless already helpful in identifying duplicates. To re-establish the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) in preparation for the 2010 elections and make it a permanent body. In 2009, the ECC was a temporary body set up to deal with electoral offences, complaints and challenges.2 It was composed of five members, three internationals appointed by the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General in Afghanistan and two Afghans appointed by the Supreme Court and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). The ECC played an important role in the 2009 elections as it invalidated almost a quarter of the votes and received a total of 2,639 complaints3 arising directly out of polling and counting, as well as complaints or appeals against the preliminary results, once these were released by the IEC.
In light of the upcoming parliamentary election, the Afghan government, President Hamid Karzai and the IEC have been addressing some of the shortcomings from the previous elections to ensure free and fair elections in 2010, but many questions remain if that will be sufficient to prevent massive fraud. Following the disastrous elections in 2009, President Hamid Karzai appointed, in April 2010, a new Chairperson to lead the work of the IEC4. Even if the chair of the IEC is still solely appointed by the President, the new Chair, Fazel Ahmad Manavi is seen as being more
Article 57.2 of the 2005 Electoral Law stipulates that the ECC should discontinue its work 30 days after the certification of the results. 3 Complaints included: allegations of ballots stuffing, poor quality ink, malfunctioning of the voter card puncher, intimidation of voters, obstruction of candidates, agents and observers and accusations of fraud committed by polling staff or local authorities as well as immense discrepancies between the low participation on election day and the number of votes recorded in the results forms. 4 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, article one hundred fifty seven, “Members of this Commission (the IEC) will be appointed by the President”.
independent from the president than his predecessor, Azizullah Ludin. Previously, in February 2010, the IEC had dismissed 6,000 staff members, who were involved in fraud cases and prevented them from ever working in future elections. Hamid Karzai however, tried to weaken the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and modify the electoral law in a way that would allow him to appoint all five Afghan members of the commission. This attempt was rejected by the Wolesi Jirga and therefore, the ECC members still include two international members (versus three before) but some observers fear that the ECC has lost some of the power it previously held. According to Candace Rondeaux of the International Crisis Group, since the number of international members was reduced, the two remaining internationals will not have the same impact they had in the last elections and are likely not to be in a position to voice certain complaints or concerns. Based on lessons learned from the 2009 elections, the IEC is implementing a number of antifraud measures to ensure the integrity of the election process so that the results are accepted as credible by the Afghan population. Indeed, the IEC has identified polling stations well in advance to ensure sufficient logistics and security support. The final list of polling stations to be open on election day was published on 18 August 2010 and it was agreed that this number would not be changed, even if the IEC chose to close some additional stations ahead of the elections due to security concerns. Such specific measures are aimed at reducing the risk of ghost polling stations5. The IEC also took significant steps to control printed ballots; provide training to candidates’ agents and election observers; tally votes quickly to avoid manipulation; make results forms tamper resistant; and address and resolve complaints quickly. Another round of voter registration took place between 13 June and 12 August, but according to Pajhwok Afghan News and the Afghanistan Analysts Network, the process was not transparent as, for instance, some parliamentary candidates in Kabul had been bringing residents from other provinces to the capital city to register for voter cards to add to their supporters on election day. In an effort to ensure women’s participation and to prevent fraud involving women’s votes, 12,000 women have been appointed to check female voters and their voting cards. For the 2009 elections, the IEC struggled to hire a sufficient number of women to staff the polling stations and therefore, in a significant proportion of cases, women’s polling stations were staffed by men, making the voting process less accessible for women. The lack of polling stations accessible to women also meant that many men were voting on women’s behalf, often exploiting women’s participation rights to carry out fraudulent practices. Nevertheless, despite these precautionary measures, international observers still believe that the elections will be characterised by widespread fraud, and according to Reuters, fraud will be more difficult to track down. Indeed, the election this year will take place at the provincial level and not at the national level, making only a small numbers of votes a deciding factor in who will be elected. Some candidates have expressed concern that local representatives might
In 2009, observers complained about dozens of “ghost” polling stations, which were closed to voters because of security concerns but still reported results back to Kabul.
jeopardise the outcome of the elections by favouring certain candidates over others due to their links with local warlords, officials and other influential people. Scott Worden, from the United States Institute of Peace, fears that this election could threaten the reconciliation process, as “the distribution of power within a province in many ways has more impact on local political dynamics” and therefore, “significant fraud that goes unaddressed by the electoral authorities has the chance to cause feuds among provincial factions that will reduce security even more and undermine the counter-insurgency strategy.”
Pajhwok Afghan News recently reported that millions of fake voting cards are being produced in
neighbouring Pakistan and then purchased by Afghan candidates. The IEC expressed concern over the situation but assured that all necessary measures were being taken to make the use of forged cards useless. The worsening security situation is also a serious concern for the upcoming election. Many international or domestic observers will not be in a position to travel to their duty station to observe any irregularities in the elections. This would leave space for fraud and would likely impact voter turn-out and which representatives are sent to the Wolesi Jirga (see 09 September CFC Weekly Afghanistan Review, Governance and Participation section) Finally, some cases of corruption have already been reported to the ECC. According to The Nation, some Afghan officials have been offered as much as USD 500,000 to falsify the results of the elections in favour of candidates supported by Hamid Karzai, while individuals were being offered up to USD 20 for their votes, the article notes. The prospect of fraud-free elections on 18 September is unlikely. Additionally, this election might further threaten a fragile Afghan democracy unless future steps are taken following the elections to ensure that all cases of fraud are thoroughly investigated and that those involved in fraud are prosecuted.
The Civil Military Fusion Centre (CFC) is an Information and Knowledge Management organisation focused on improving civilmilitary interaction, facilitating information sharing and enhancing situational awareness through the web portal, CimicWeb. CFC products are developed with open-source information from governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, international organisations, academic institutions, media sources and military organisations. By design, CFC products or links to open sourced and independently produced articles do not necessarily represent the opinions, views or official positions of any other organisation.