The full audit of votes cast in Afghanistan’s presidential election was again suspended on Saturday, underscoring the fragility of the political deal between the two camps brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. On Saturday, the recount was stopped for a third time since it began 10 days ago, after supporters of one of the candidates, Abdullah Abdullah, walked out, claiming one of the audit criteria wasn’t being adhered to. The sticking point concerned a technical issue related to ballots from polling stations that saw a surprising jump in votes in the June-14 runoff election compared with the first round of voting on April 5. The two camps on Saturday did reach an agreement on a separate issue that had been slowing down the audit: how to disqualify fraudulent votes.
Articles about voting issues in The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan: In Kabul, vote recount delayed in dispute over what constitutes a fraudulent ballot | The Washington Post
Election authorities on Wednesday halted the inspection of about 8 million ballots cast in last month’s presidential runoff in Afghanistan, heightening concerns that an already chaotic process to choose the country’s new leader could take months to complete. The effort to reexamine the votes was paused for a full day to hammer out differences between the two candidates over what criteria to use to scrap suspicious ballots, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said. The audit, which began last week, was expected to resume Thursday. Tensions have been high since the June 15 election, in which former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah faced off against former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani after a first round of voting in April in which neither secured the majority needed to win the presidency.
Seemingly endless squabbles are interrupted by full-scale shouting matches. Campaign aides mutter suspiciously about what foreign visitors might be up to. And ballot boxes are piling up, waiting to be cracked open and examined for signs of fraud. In two spartan, stifling warehouses on the edge of Kabul, hundreds of Afghans, Americans and Europeans are engaged in a last-ditch attempt to salvage an acceptably democratic result from an election dispute that has been tumbling toward a street fight, or worse. They are auditing all of the roughly eight million ballots cast in last month’s presidential runoff, trying to separate fraud from fact. But a week into the process, the audit has engendered little confidence, and is already desperately behind schedule.Only 4.5 percent of the roughly 22,000 ballot boxes had been examined by Wednesday. Each day has seemed to yield some new dispute or confusion that has put on the brakes. Does writing “insh’allah” — God willing — next to the name of a candidate on a ballot constitute a legitimate vote? Is it proper for campaign representatives to move between tables, urging colleagues to argue harder? And who was that tall, bearded foreigner with no badge?
Afghanistan’s audit of millions of ballots from the presidential runoff vote is being slowed down by disputes. But Thijs Berman, the EU’s chief election observer, tells DW what matters is that the audit is done properly. It’s only been a few days since Afghanistan began an audit of more than eight million votes cast in the June 14 runoff presidential election but the process has already been marred by walkouts by both sides. Although the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) said that the process would take around three weeks, with teams working in two shifts to audit around 1,000 ballot boxes a day, the exercise may take longer than expected as the two sides still appear at odds over the ground rules for the audit. The audit had been agreed upon by rival presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani following Abdullah’s claims of massive fraud, which had threatened to plunge the conflict-ridden country into a political crisis. The agreement, brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, comes at a crucial time as the United States, Afghanistan’s biggest foreign donor, prepares to withdraw most of its combat troops by the end of this year. Thijs Berman, the chief election observer of the EU Election Assessment Team (EAT) in Afghanistan, says in a DW interview, that it is not uncommon for audits to lead to discussions, especially over ‘suspect votes’, and adds that the important thing is that the audit is conducted properly.
Afghanistan’s tenuous deal to resolve its presidential election crisis fell into jeopardy over the weekend when an ambitious audit was halted just days after it began. Election workers began looking for irregularities before agreeing rules about which ballots should be thrown out, but a dispute over invalidation led one audit team to walk out of the recount on Saturday afternoon, Afghan and foreign sources said. The team agreed to go back to work nearly 24 hours later, but still do not have a deal on what constitutes fraud. Progress has been slow for a country that has been in a dangerous political limbo for months. After three days of counting, the audit teams of election workers, international and Afghan observers and agents for the two presidential candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, had only made their way through 435 boxes of ballot papers. With more than 22,000 boxes to be checked in the unprecedented recount of all votes cast, the teams must speed up dramatically or Afghanistan will not have a new president until 2015.
Afghan election workers on Thursday began auditing the votes cast in last month’s presidential election runoff, monitored by American and United Nations observers. The audit of almost eight million ballots cast in the June 14 runoff was part of a deal brokered last weekend by Secretary of State John Kerry to ease a dispute between the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, that had threatened to fracture Afghanistan’s government only months before the NATO-led combat mission here is to formally end. Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani also agreed to enact broad changes to Afghanistan’s system of government in the coming years. But first the audit must determine who will actually be Afghanistan’s next president. It is a huge undertaking that is expected to take three to six weeks and, officials cautioned, run into snags along the way.
Just hours before the official start of an audit of eight million votes in Afghanistan, negotiations were under way with the electoral authorities to pin down the ground rules. All the votes cast in last month’s presidential runoff are due to be scrutinised under an agreement brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the weekend. Afghans heaved a collective sigh of relief when the deal was announced, because it appeared to offer a reprieve just when many feared the country risked slipping back into chaos and violence after both candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, disputed the results. But there are still some hurdles to be overcome. A final “checklist” setting out what constitutes a “suspect vote” still needs to be agreed upon with the electoral authorities. ”They’re still trying to draft it now as we speak,” one insider told the BBC on condition of anonymity, as dusk approached on Wednesday evening.
The euphoria over a U.S.-brokered deal between Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates at the weekend was a sign of how close some people believe the country came to a split along ethnic lines that could quickly turn violent. The speed at which that relief has evaporated suggests the political crisis, playing out as foreign troops prepare to withdraw after more than a decade policing the war-torn nation, is not over yet. And while Afghans and foreign governments fret over the fate of the election, an insurgency led by the ousted Taliban militia rages on. On Tuesday, at least 89 people were killed when a car bomb exploded in a crowded market in the eastern province of Paktika, one of the worst attacks in a year.
Afghanistan: United Nations Assistance Mission to oversee Afghanistan’s presidential election audit | UPI
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Saturday during his visit to Kabul that Afghanistan will undertake an audit of the votes cast in the presidential election run-off on June 14. The audit will determine which candidate succeeds Hamid Karzai. Preliminary election results released show former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani in the lead with 56.44 percent of the vote and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah trailing behind with 43.56 percent. Abdullah challenged the legitimacy of the election, alleging fraud and questioning the Independent Election Commission’s preliminary election results. Kerry arrived in Kabul on Friday to meet with the candidates regarding the political transition. In a joint press conference, Ghani emphasized Afghanistan’s need for “the most intensive and extensive audit possible to restore faith [in the election].”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Afghanistan on Friday to try to broker an election-audit deal between presidential candidates amid widespread allegations of voting fraud and as a deepening political crisis threatens to fragment the country along ethnic and regional lines. On Monday, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced preliminary results following a June 14 presidential runoff between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Mr. Ghani emerged as the apparent winner, with 56.4% of the vote, but Mr. Abdullah rejected the preliminary results, charging widespread fraud, and declared himself the victor. Followers of Mr. Abdullah have called for him to set up a “parallel government,” raising fears of upending the country’s democratic transition and a return to civil war.