National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel)

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Foreign presence in the Afghanistan election

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Foreign presence in the Afghanistan election
by Corazon H. Ignacio, NAMFREL National Council member

Most countries are xenophobic when it comes to protecting the independence of its electoral process. Afghanistan, still in the first stages of having its citizens exercise the right to vote, can not yet afford to thumb its nose at the logistical support being extended by the United Nations, the US, and other foreign governments in its elections.

For starters, its very Electoral Law (as amended in 2005) provides for the appointment of three out of five seats in the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) to foreigners or international members. The ECC has adjudicatory authority on election complaints, disputes, and protests, which makes it a powerful body in the Afghan political scene. Its decisions are final. The three ECC officials are appointed by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Afghanistan. In the coming Wolesi Jirga elections, the number has been trimmed to two instead of three foreigner members of the ECC.

Nine months before the elections or in January 2010, the Karzai government formally requested the UN for technical and logistical support to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the ECC. The UNAMA (United National Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) is trying (without much success) to clarify that it has “no role in implementing, supervising and monitoring the polls” but it is common knowledge that it is footing the bill and that Mr. Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, has been playing a high profile for a “non role in the elections”. He has been going around the country (sometimes in the company of the Chairman of the IEC), meeting with election players, declaring UN’s full support for the conduct of the parliamentary election, and enjoining the citizens to come out and vote.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) while fewer in number than the Afghan police and the military, provides the critical arms and strategy for maintaining security in the 5,893 poll precincts across the country.

Foreign presence is felt even in nefarious activities. Hundreds of thousands of fake voters’ cards circulating in the country are suspected to have been printed in neighboring Iran or Pakistan printing presses. Who will benefit from the ploy, whether the cheaters will be able to pull off the intended fraud, and whether the IEC can foil the plot will be found on Sept. 18.

The European Union (EU) and the IEC signed a memorandum of understanding for the assessment of the upcoming parliamentary elections, the EU announced two weeks before the elections.

Meanwhile, 500 international election observers coming from all over the world will be observing the elections on September 18.

Written by namfrel

September 18, 2010 at 7:52 am

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