National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel)

BANTAY NG BAYAN

ANFREL Interim Report on the 2010 Afghanistan Wolesi Jirga election

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Source: ANFREL

INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION
AFGHANISTAN WOLESI JIRGA 2010

Interim report
September 22, 2010

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) deployed 30 short‐term observers from 11 countries to 11 provinces in Afghanistan to assess the 2010 Wolesi‐Jirga elections in the country. The following interim report covers a period of seven days of pre‐elections and an entire day of polling observation. The views and comments in this report is a reflection of the findings from the 11 provinces, without any attempt to generalize the overall situation during the elections in the country.

SUMMARY

The September 18 election was the second Wolesi‐Jirga in Afghanistan after the 2005 elections that allowed for a legitimate government to be set up. The event was widely viewed as a crucial step to strengthen democratic institutions in the country and a step forward in consolidating democracy amongst different stakeholders in the country. Notwithstanding, the violence, fraud and irregularities, which has marked the elections, it is worth noting that electoral processes so far have been a major factor in the democratic transition of Afghanistan. Although the voter turn out marked with less than 4 million casted ballots.

ANFREL deployed 30 observers to 11 provinces which are Kabul, Parwan, Pansheer, Kapisa, Bamyan, Badakshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Jawzjan, Hirat and Nangarhar from 12 – 25 September, 2010. The observation will continue until the first phase of tallying so as to monitor counting and adjudication of complaints in the provinces. The observers have covered cities and rural areas including prison polling centers in the provinces. They witnessed the proceedings from the opening up to the closing of the polling stations.

The role played by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and the Government of the Republic Islamic of Afghanistan is commendable particularly in initiating reforms and developing a mechanism to combat frauds and ensure cleaner elections. However, dominations by strong candidates control power on the ground to influence the elections for their benefits, and in many cases expropriating government assets and its machinery has been a key feature of the Wolesi Jirga.

Threat, violence and money‐power are widely acknowledged as an effective strategy to win the electoral battle preventing many candidates to contest the elections freely. In many other cases women and minority groups become the obvious victims of such practices. Vulnerable groups too become affected by intimidation allegedly from AGEs or other parties contesting in the electoral process. Ironically, not too many reports have been filed as those who are victimized by the system, particularly women candidates of the opinion that there would be no solution and complaints or reports from them may only worsen the problem.

Unbalanced campaigns using posters, banners displayed in every nook and corner in the country amongst candidates and political parties since the beginning of the process has been a major feature worrying practitioners of electoral democracy in Afghanistan.

Without limit on regulation for the campaign finance, the wealthy candidates are able to launch their campaign by utilizing mainstream and the alternative media, while the average candidates normally have problems in competing against them. There are many reports that confirm distribution of gifts to woo the voters.

Controversy regarding fake voter cards, which were earlier dismissed by the IEC as “rumors” needs further investigation as there have been instances to prove that voters and powerful people (either candidates agents, village and tribal chiefs) have attempted to use them. Cases of fake voter cards have been reported from Jawzjan and other parts of the country.

The other issue has been the quality of indelible ink, which has been a major concern. In a number of places it was found that the quality of the ink was poor and it could be rubbed off within minutes after applying on the finger. Incidentally, this is one part of the polling process, which acts as the ultimate safeguard to prevent cheating, and multiple voting.

Security issues appeared to be the major challenge to the conduct of the election, as it led to logistics hassles, problems in deployment of election officials and other operations related work. The move by the IEC to close polling centers and polling stations as a measure to prevent frauds is well appreciated, as it was done to protect civilians from coming to any obvious harm. However, it also led to a systemic process of disfranchisement, as many voters’ could not exercise their votes. To add to this is the inadequate distribution of ballot papers in many provinces, which led to many voters to lose their voting rights.

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Written by namfrel

September 22, 2010 at 3:01 am

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