An American organization tasked with furthering democracy in developing nations said Monday that while elections next April in Afghanistan are unlikely to be perfect, they should be better than previous polls marred by widespread fraud. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs said its assessment mission to Afghanistan believes there is “guarded optimism” about the April 5 polls that will elect a new president to succeed Hamid Karzai, along with local council members for the country’s 34 provinces. But the organization said the elections still face serious challenges, including security, potential fraud and even weather conditions that could affect voter turnout. The 2009 presidential election was so soiled that U.N.-backed fraud investigators threw out more than 1 million votes — enough to force a second round. Many observers blamed much of the fraud on Karzai’s supporters, but he blamed the U.S. for allegedly interfering against him. In the end, the opposing candidate dropped out and Karzai was elected was elected to a second and final five-year term. Since then, reforms in the voting process have tried to make the elections commissions more independent of the presidency.
Articles about voting issues in The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Organizers of Afghanistan’s make-or-break presidential election next year say poor security, a shortage of monitors and funding holes are undermining their ability to safeguard the process from the widespread fraud that marred the last poll in 2009. Another deeply flawed election would undermine the attempts of Washington and its allies to foster democracy ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops later in 2014. ”The foundation of the election due to technical issues was not done in the proper way,” said Noor Mohammad Noor, spokesman for the Independent Election Commission (IEC). “We need measures to secure the process through observers.” Western nations, who have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on a conflict that has failed to end the Taliban insurgency, have pledged about a third less cash to the United Nations (U.N.) fund that will cover most of the election’s costs compared with 2009, official U.N. figures shows. The reduced budget is partly because some land and equipment that had to be bought last time is being reused and fewer foreign advisers are needed, say the U.N. and IEC chief Yousof Nooristani.
With Afghanistan’s next presidential election just five months away, authorities say they are facing a possible repeat of the abuses that have discredited the country’s efforts to build a democracy. Election officials say they can only estimate how many voters are really on the rolls. Added to the confusion are millions of additional registration cards from the elections of the past. Taliban threats cast a further damper. ”This is the reality of this country. We are conducting elections in a difficult situation, with poor security, but we must conduct elections,” said Noor Mohammed Noor, the head of the Independent Election Commission. “It is the only way for our country to succeed.” A credible election would do much for the West’s efforts to foster democracy in Afghanistan after allegations of fraud marred the 2009 vote that handed President Hamid Karzai a second term. He is banned by the constitution from running for a third.
Khadija Ghaznawi says she knows exactly how to end the long-simmering conflict in Afghanistan: build more factories. A logistics company owner by profession and peace activist on the side, Ghaznawi says that if the government had been diligent about creating more jobs for Afghans, militants would have laid down their arms already. “The Afghan Taliban are also sick of fighting,” she says. “They haven’t gotten any of the opportunities from aid money that came into this country. If we provide work and education for their kids, they’ll stop.” That was one of the causes Ghaznawi was planning to champion as the only woman running for president in Afghanistan’s upcoming national elections — that is, until she was disqualified a few days ago. In 162 days, Afghan voters will choose their next president, in an election that stands to shape the future of this troubled nation in the year the U.S. completes its withdrawal after more than a decade-long occupation. But Ghaznawi will most likely not be on the ballot. On Oct. 22, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that over half the candidates who had put their names forward for the job did not qualify to run. Ghaznawi says she has no idea why she was booted off the list. “The elections commission didn’t tell me why,” she said. “I haven’t received one phone call… I’m very angry with the decision.”
Sayed Gul walked into a small mud brick room in eastern Afghanistan, a bundle wrapped in a shawl on his back. With a flick, he plonked the package onto a threadbare carpet and hundreds of voter cards spilled out. ”How many do you want to buy?” he asked with a grin. Like many others, Gul left a routine job – in his case, repairing cars in Marco, a small town in the east – to join a thriving industry selling the outcome of next year’s presidential elections. Gul, who had a long, black beard and was dressed in the traditional loose salwar kameez, said he was able to buy voter cards for 200 Pakistani rupees ($1.89) each from villagers and sell them on for 500 rupees ($4.73) to campaign managers, who can use them in connivance with poll officials to cast seemingly legitimate votes. From each card, Gul said, he made enough money to pay for a hearty meal like kebabs with rice, and maybe even a soda.
Afghanistan: Gunman kills provincial election official days after start of campaign season | Associated Press
A gunman killed the head of a provincial election commission in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said. The shooting came as Afghanistan’s campaign season started this week, with authorities accepting candidate nominations for presidential and provincial elections next spring. The man slain in Wednesday’s attack, Amanullah Aman, is believed to be the highest-ranking election official to be killed in Afghanistan since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
The precarious security situation in Afghanistan poses the main risk to the historic presidential vote set for next April and could make holding the election “difficult” if it gets worse, the new chairman of the country’s election commission said. While U.S. and Afghan military commanders paint an optimistic picture of their achievements against the Taliban, Independent Election Commission chief Yusuf Nuristani said that insurgent violence remains his key preoccupation amid preparations for the vote. ”The main challenge for everyone is the security issue,” Mr. Nuristani, who served as deputy defense minister and governor of Herat province under President Hamid Karzai, said in his first interview with the international press since assuming the job this month. “If the security issue deteriorates, it will be difficult to hold elections.”
Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Wednesday endorsed the Afghanistan election commission formation, duties and authorities. Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, Afghan parliament house speaker on Wednesday said that president Hamid Karzai has assured regarding the endorsement of the election commission formation, duties and authorities following a telephone conversation. The parliament of Afghanistan on Monday approved the bill for Afghanistan election law following controversies which continued for several days. The law was approved by joint parliamentarian commissions after differences were resolved in the committee and was sent to president Hamid Karzai for endorsement.
Afghanistan started voter registration on Sunday, in preparation for next year’s presidential polls, an election commission official said. “We started voter registration this morning in 41 different registration centres across the country in all of 34 provinces so that Afghans can use their given right to vote,” said Noor Mohammad Noor, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Election Commission. “It is going on well. In Kabul, there are three centres. We don’t have exact figures on the turnout, but initial reports say that the participation in registration process is encouraging,” he added. Registration will continue until two weeks before election day, slated for April 5, 2014, the commission said.
Afghanistan’s election commission on Tuesday set the country’s next presidential election for April 5, 2014, kicking off a race that would choose Hamid Karzai’s successor and unfold as U.S.-led forces leave the country. Mr. Karzai, who is prohibited by the constitution from running for a third term, is widely expected to name a preferred candidate in the polls, possibly his older brother Qayum or a trusted ally. But with 18 months until the poll date set by the Independent Election Commission, some observers were skeptical that a new voting system and electoral law will be completed in time to guide elections and stave off fraud.