Much to the praise of Afghanistan’s nascent security forces, the successful execution of presidential polls in October is now at a knife-edge situation amid political bickering combined with technical glitches.
On Nov. 7, Independent Election Commission (IEC), the top election body, was supposed to announce the final poll results — for a total of 13 candidates who vied for the top seat — but it is yet to produce even the preliminary poll results.
Over a month since the landmark polls of Sept. 28, the frontrunners — State Builder camp by the incumbent President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and stability and partnership team by his power-sharing rival Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah — press furiously the electoral commission to ensure transparency in the sorting and counting process in a fair manner.
Commission divided, under pressure
Caught in such a difficult situation to execute the daunting polls, only the fourth since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the electoral commission has already sought public apology over delay in coming up with the preliminary results.
The election commissioners at the IEC — elected by the candidates — are now clearly divided between the two leading camps, State Builder, Stability and Partnership hence failed to move unanimously, a senior Kabul-based journalist and elections observer Eqbal Barzgar told Anadolu Agency.
“The bone of contention at the ongoing sorting out process is that one group wants the votes cast after allocated time and not properly traced by the biometric devices to be nullified altogether while the other camp is demanding for not further delaying the sorting and counting process in line with the figures provided by the German manufacturer of the biometric devices, Dermalog,” he said.
The IEC declared last week that after a marathon sorting process in the presence of local and international observers, the German firm has identified 1,843,107 valid votes out of the 1,929,333 votes already transferred to the commission’s central database invalidating more than 86,000 votes.
While Abdullah’s electoral team demanding for more suspicions votes to be invalidated, Ghani’s team is demanding justification for the already nullified ballots.
Fear of repeated crisis
With no immediate signs of the results, election observers are increasingly calling for assurances on transparency to avoid uncertainties, while urging the international community not to panic.
Last month, the country’s western backers applauded the courage of Afghan voters, poll workers, election observers and security forces, as well as the work of the IEC and the Electoral Complaints Commission, that all made the Sept. 28 presidential elections possible, respecting the constitutional order of Afghanistan.
Special envoys and special representatives of the EU, UN, U.K., U.S., France, Germany, Italy, and Norway met at the EU headquarters in Brussels on Oct. 22, and urged independent Afghan electoral institutions to ensure the votes are accurately counted and results are determined in a fair and transparent manner to ensure the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process.
The internal rift has severely undermined people’s trust in the electoral system, Yosuf Rasheed, head of the watchdog Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, told Anadolu Agency, referring to the recent stalemate.
“Previously, the excuse was that Dermalog has not shared with the election commission the figures, but that has been done now.
“There seems divisions within the election commission as commissioners are sharing contrasting views on their social media pages,” he added.
The IEC offered the public an apology a few days ago over the delay in the announcement of preliminary results.
Following similarly troubled polls when the country was pushed to the edge of disorder amid the withdrawal of some 100,000 foreign troops in 2014, the hastily executed presidential polls delivered a weak and divided National Unity Government.
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