National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel)

BANTAY NG BAYAN

FEFA first preliminary observation report (Sept. 20)

leave a comment »

Source: FEFA

Election Day 2010: First Preliminary Observation Report September 20, 2010

Introduction

The experience of the 2009 elections as undermined by pervasive fraud and high-level malfeasance determined the general expectations of the 2010 parliamentary elections.

Definitively proclaiming how this year’s elections went in comparison to last year’s presidential and provincial council elections will require time, careful analysis of data collected by observers, and consideration of both international standards and the many challenges of holding elections in Afghanistan. Moreover, this year’s elections are not yet over. The electoral process is just that, a process, and it does not conclude with Election Day. The post-Election Day complaints phase has only just begun and the final results are not expected for another six weeks.

On Election Day 2010, FEFA observed voting and counting with nearly 7,000 observers at approximately 60 percent of polling stations nationwide in 3,538 polling centers. These observers reported to FEFA throughout the day by phone and SMS.

At this point, FEFA is ready to make preliminary statements about how the September 18 vote went. At the same time, FEFA urges all stakeholders and the media to withhold “better” or “worse” judgments until the entire electoral process is complete, and to look at different aspects of the elections individually in addition to making assessments of the process as a whole.

The participation of voters and the security arrangements put in place for voting were the most encouraging aspects of Election Day. Against the backdrop of a violent campaign season, millions bravely voted anyway, demonstrating again that the people of Afghanistan are strongly committed to democracy. However, regrettably, a large segment of the electorate was disenfranchised by insecurity and logistical failures. Protecting the integrity of the votes that were cast and bringing the electoral process to a just conclusion should now be the top priorities of all stakeholders.

Security

Attacks by insurgents and powerbrokers against civilians involved in the elections marked the parliamentary campaigns and, on September 18, voters went to the polls after months of warnings of Election Day violence from insurgents and powerbrokers.

The security forces performed their protection duties well overall and are credited with preventing wide-scale disruptive violence and enabling voting in some insecure areas.

Still, many pre-election threats were carried through.

Insurgent Attacks

Observers reported 276 security incidents at and around voting places in 32 provinces that directly affected the proceedings of the election by forcing polling centers to close and limiting voters’ movement. These security incidents occurred in Badghis, Baghlan, Ghazni, Kandahar, Khost, Kunduz, Kunar, Logar, Nangarhar, Maidan Wardak, and Zabul.

Taliban blew up polling centers in Kunar, Khost and Kandahar and captured centers in Badghis, Baghlan, Kunduz and Laghman, shutting down voting in the communities those centers served. Rocket attacks against polling centers in populated areas of Nangarhar and Kunar killed several civilians and sent other fleeing for their lives. In Badghis, Balkh, and Logar, Taliban kidnapped election workers and observers. Some –the exact number is unknown—are still being held, and the bodies of three abducted IEC staff from Balkh were found on September 19.

Powerbroker Attacks

Powerbrokers and their supporters carried out 157 serious acts of violence in 28 provinces with the highest number of incidents reported in Badghis, Daikundi, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghor, some district of Kabul, Maidan Wardak, Paktia, Paktika, Takhar, and Zabul. In some districts of Daikundi, Ghor, Herat, and Nangarhar, gunmen disrupted voting and seized ballot boxes.

Violence against Observers

Observers reported these incidents in the face of direct threats, and several were subjected to violence. Four FEFA observers were assaulted on Election Day by candidate agents and powerbrokers in Daikundi, Farah, Kandahar, Ghazni and Takhar. Two others were kidnapped by Taliban.

Participation

Given the vast differences in security among Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and 398 districts, voter turnout was similarly varied across the country. The regions with the worst voter turnout were those experiencing the most intense conflict –the south and southeast.

Turnout in the rest of the country was low generally but higher in administrative centers, where security forces were most concentrated, than in the rural areas where insurgents could stage more attacks on underprotected populations and powerbrokers could compel the electorate uninhibited.

Even some very insecure provinces saw pockets of high voter turnout. Observers in relatively secure Jaghori district in Ghazni reported moderately high voter turnout in sharp contrast to the reports of very low voter turnout in the rest of the province. Observers in Helmand also reported greater than expected turnout, especially in the provincial center.

The highest voter turnout was reported in the central region and more secure provinces of the north and east. Provinces such as Badakhshan and Bamiyan, with relatively good security in most urban and rural areas, saw large numbers of confident voters, as did less secure Laghman, Nangarhar and Takhar.

Women voters were fewer than male voters almost everywhere, though the ratios skewed most dramatically in the most insecure southern and southeastern provinces, such as Paktika, where many polling centers reported almost no women voters. Within these areas, the disparity between the number of male and female voters was most severe in polling centers without female IEC staff.

Electoral Violations and Irregularities

Intimidation

Electoral violations and irregularities were once again widely registered. Observers reported more than 300 instances of intimidation and coercion of voters, candidates, candidates’ agents and observers by local powerbrokers in 34 provinces. The highest numbers of incidents were seen in Badakhshan, Farah, Faryab, Ghor, Kabul, Kunduz, Nangarhar, Takhar, Uruzgan and Zabul.

Most acts of Election Day intimidation throughout the country were carried out by individuals with known links to illegal armed groups, demonstrating both the shortfalls of the Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) and Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) processes and the failure of electoral vetting to identify and exclude from the candidate rolls those individuals most likely to use force to sway the electoral process in their favor.

Fraud took many forms; ballot-stuffing, proxy voting, underage voting, the use of fake voter identification cards, repeat voting, and interference by candidates and officials during voting and counting.

Ballot- Stuffing

Ballot-stuffing was reported in 280 polling centers in 28 provinces, with the highest number of reports in the provinces of Baghlan, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghor, Herat, some district of Kabul, Kandahar, Khost, Kunduz, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika and Uruzgan.

Proxy Voting

A problem nationwide, proxy voting was most concentrated in the extremely insecure provinces of the south and southeast, where few women voted but women’s ballots were commonly cast by their male relatives. Observers in 390 polling centers in 24 provinces reported large numbers of proxy votes for women cast by men. Most of these votes were cast in sites where female poll workers were absent. The most serious reports of proxy voting came from Badakhshan, Daikundi, Ghor, Helmand, Kabul, Kandahar, Kapisa, Khost, Laghman, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Paktika, Uruzgan and Zabul

Underage Voting

FEFA’s observers registered multiple voting by underage voters in 1,259 polling centers in 31 provinces. The most serious cases were reported in Balkh, Bamiyan, Daikundi, Faryab, Ghor, Kunduz, Laghman, Nangarhar, Paktia, Paktika, Sari Pul, Takhar, Uruzgan and Zabul.

Fake Voter Cards

News reports of fake voter cards printed in Pakistan and Iran and shipped to Afghanistan for use by candidates to commit fraud dominated the election headlines in the week before Election Day. Though police prevented a number of these attempts and made arrests of some individuals possessing fake voter cards, in most cases those in possession of fake cards were let go without being referred to the relevant authorities for further investigation into the origin and intended use of the cards. FEFA’s observers registered the use of fake voting cards in at least 352 polling centers in 22 provinces with the greatest concentration of reports in Ghazni, Ghor, Kabul, Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Paktia, Takhar and Zabul.

Repeat Voting

Repeat voting was reported in 1,228 polling centers in 32 provinces, with the most serious cases reported at polling centers in Farah, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghor, Herat, Kandahar, Kapisa, Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Nimroz, Paktia, Parwan, and Zabul.

Obstruction of Observers

Obstructing observers was another means used to distort the vote outcome. Observers in Jawzjan, Kabul, Khost, Parwan and Takhar reported that they were barred from polling centers for at least part of the day, ejected from centers by election workers, and harassed by candidate agents.

Election Administration

This year’s poll was the first completely Afghan-run national election, and the Independent Election Commission (IEC) was under pressure to prove that it had carried out reforms recommended after the election administration body was found culpable in the widespread fraud of last year’s elections. It will not be possible to fully assess the IEC’s administration of this year’s elections until much later in the electoral process, but FEFA can comment on some aspects of the IEC’s performance on Election Day.

On the positive side, the IEC, with the support of the security forces, was able to open approximately 90 percent of polling centers nationwide amid daunting security and logistical challenges. However, the IEC still fell far short of carrying out its mandate professionally and impartially in many areas.

Late Openings

Observers reported that 1,500 polling centers opened late. The province with the greatest number of reported late openings Nuristan, with delays in some cases as long as three hours.

Washable Ink

FEFA observers reported widespread failure to provide effectively indelible ink to mark voters’ fingers. In 489 polling centers in 29, the dark ink used to mark the fingers of voters and prevent repeat voting easily washed off. Washable ink was reported most extensively in Badakhshan, Balkh, Ghor, Herat, Kabul, Nimroz, Panjshir, Takhar, and Uruzgan.

Essential Materials Missing

FEFA’s observers reported absence of essential materials in 315 centers in 19 provinces, with serious cases in Badakhshan, Baghlan, Bamiyan, Daikundi, Faryab, Ghazni, Herat, Jawzjan, Kabul, Nimroz, Panjshir, Samangan and Sari Pul. According to observers in Lal Wa Sarjangal district in Ghor and district 6 of Kabul, some polling centers in those areas lacked official stamps.

Multiple polling centers in at least five provinces – Balkh, Ghazni, Herat Kabul, and Nangarhar – ran out of ballots while voters were stilling queuing to vote and centers in those provinces closed before the official time. Voters in areas that experienced severe ballot shortages expressed concern that their constituencies were being deliberately disenfranchised.

Logistical failures also included the incorrect dispatch of one province’s sensitive materials to another. For example, election materials for Badghis were sent to Bamiyan by mistake.

Absence of Female Staff

FEFA’s observed registered a complete absence of female IEC staff at 1,062 polling stations across the country, with the largest number of serious cases in Paktia, Paktika and Uruzgan. As previously stated, the absence of female poll workers exacerbated the problem of proxy voting.

IEC Staff Bias

Observers reported that IEC staff violated the principle of non-partiality in their work again. Examples ranged from the relatively minor –providing greater access to agents of favored candidates—to the extreme –closing polling centers and stuffing hundreds of ballots for local powerbrokers. Biased conduct on the part of IEC staff was most prevalent in Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Faryab, Ghor, Herat, Kabul, Kunduz, Laghman, Nangarhar, Parwan, Takhar and Uruzgan. Also troubling was the refusal of IEC staff in many of the affected polling centers to provide complaint forms to voters and candidates.

Delayed Counting

The decision whether to proceed with counting of ballots was decided on center by a center basis, with no single schedule or procedure adhered to throughout the country. While counting was underway shortly after the closing of polls in some areas, in others it was postponed until the next day. FEFA’s observers reported that in 243 polling centers in 25 provinces the counting process did not go ahead in accordance with the procedure and schedule set out by the IEC. Delayed counting raised ballot tampering fears among observers and candidates, as ballot boxes were stored overnight unauthorized locations in many cases.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Taking the aforementioned issues into account, FEFA has serious concerns about the quality of the elections. As tallying begins and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) begins to consider Election Day complaints, FEFA makes the following recommendations.

· FEFA calls on all state institutions, especially the president, to support the impartial and independent operation of the ECC as it identifies and investigates fraud cases and adjudicates complaints.

· FEFA requests the ECC to refer serious fraud, intimidation and violence cases to the proper judicial authorities so those involved in illegal and violent acts are held accountable.

· FEFA urges the ECC to carry out investigations transparently and resist political pressure to expedite complaints adjudication process.

· FEFA calls on the IEC to fully cooperate with the ECC in investigations of fraud and coercion and to resist political pressure to announce the final results early without full verification of legitimate votes.

· FEFA calls on the international community to denounce identified acts of fraud, regardless of their perpetrator, and provide technical assistance to the ECC and IEC in verifying the results of the elections and carrying out investigations.

Written by namfrel

September 21, 2010 at 9:46 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: