It starts by cutting the bright green seal on the lid of the ballot box, but the tedious task of auditing just one box among five hangars’ worth in Afghanistan’s contested presidential election often ends only hours later. The pace of counting continues to lag amid challenges by both campaigns two days after rival candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah stood with Secretary of State John Kerry and pledged to accept the results of an election audit they vowed would end before NATO leaders meet next month to discuss their future commitments in Afghanistan. Once the seals are cut, the box is opened and some quick math done to match the number of ballots with a tally sheet inside. Things slow from there. While an auditor form the Afghan Independent Election Commission flips through several bundles of ballots, observers from the rival campaigns lean in, peering at check marks and scribbles to pull aside the ballots they consider suspicious.
Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit here on Thursday to press Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates to form a government of national unity and rescue the political agreement he negotiated almost four weeks ago. The Obama administration is urging Afghan politicians to accept the result of an internationally monitored audit so a new president can be inaugurated before NATO nations hold a summit meeting in Wales in early September. “We would like to see the president inaugurated and arriving at NATO as part of a government of national unity,” said a senior State Department official who is traveling with Mr. Kerry.
Afghanistan’s election audit needs to be fast and decisive to avert the threat of spiralling instability as US troops pull out, but attempts to speed up the process are bogged down in squabbles and confusion. Election officials are sorting through more than eight million votes in front of domestic observers, international monitors and representatives from the two presidential candidates. Every individual vote is physically examined and, if either campaign team complains, it is put to one side for further assessment. In a sweltering warehouse in Kabul on Monday, a UN official peered at a row of disputed ballot papers from the eastern province of Paktika — a hotbed of alleged fraud on polling day more than seven weeks ago. Both campaign teams had alleged that some papers showed suspiciously similar tick marks for their opponent, leading to a noisy four-hour dispute over one single ballot box. “We have a pattern here,” the adjudicating UN official said, pointing at some ticks. “But it is only three in a row, so it is ok. Now let’s look at the other side’s complaints.”
A massive operation to check eight million votes in Afghanistan’s disputed elections has resumed in Kabul. Vote-checking restarted on Sunday after a holiday break without the involvement of one of the candidates, but Abdullah Abdullah later rejoined the process. Mr Abdullah had claimed that “widespread fraud” denied him victory over his rival Ashraf Ghani. The vote will see power transferred from Hamid Karzai, the only president since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Around 23,000 ballot boxes from 34 provinces will be brought to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) headquarters in Kabul. … The boxes have been stored in provincial capitals around Afghanistan since a second round of polling on 14 June.
A recount of votes in the Afghan election has been suspended again, despite being scheduled to restart on Saturday after the Muslim Eid holiday. The breakdown came despite late night phone talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani. A spokesman for Mr Abdullah said that the UN had not taken his concerns into account. Both candidates accuse each other of electoral fraud. It was Mr Kerry’s intervention last month in three days of talks in Kabul that led to agreement to carry out a full audit of votes. The current dispute is over how to deal with ballot boxes found to contain invalid votes.
Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election plunged deeper into crisis on Sunday when one of the main contenders accused a deputy of President Hamid Karzai of orchestrating fraud in favour of his rival. Supporters of Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, released an audio recording they said was Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili encouraging vote-rigging in favour of Ashraf Ghani, the other contender in the race. Khalili’s and Ghani’s staff dismissed the recording as a fake. Allegations of mass fraud have overshadowed the outcome of the vote, which was meant to be the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan’s history and came before the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of this year. The eight million votes cast in the second round of the election, held in June, are currently being audited under U.N. supervision, according to a deal brokered by the United States.
The mammoth task of auditing eight million votes cast in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election will restart on Saturday, the electoral commission said today, but disputes still hang over the process. A US-brokered agreement to audit all ballots defused a crisis this month, but the process has stalled three times since and the candidates have yet to agree on how to disqualify votes.
The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) said Wednesday that the vote audit for the presidential election will resume on Saturday. A statement released by IEC said the audit will be resumed following a break for the Eid al-Fitr national holiday. The statement further added that the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has formally adopted criteria for the recount and invalidation of ballots, as part of its 100% audit of the run-off round of voting for the Presidential election. “The adoption of the criteria is consistent with the laws of Afghanistan and the mandate of the IEC. The criteria are based on a proposal of the United Nations, finalized after extensive consultations with the campaign teams of both presidential candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai,” the statement said.
Three airless aluminium warehouses, shaped like giant armadillos, sit hunched on the outskirts of Kabul. Inside hundreds of volunteers and international election observers have been bustling around in stifling heat, arguing over the shape of tick-marks on individual ballots. During Ramadan the lack of food and drink made the stale atmosphere inside the godowns all the more draining. The Ramadan fast has since broken, but the counting goes on. Until it has finished, the presidential election that was supposed to replace Hamid Karzai hangs in suspension. After a surprising reversal of fortunes suddenly favoured Ashraf Ghani in the second round of the presidential elections, his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, cried foul. Alleging fraud, several of his powerful supporters threatened to establish a breakaway government. It took an emergency agreement brokered by John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, to keep the process alive, but the deal is starting to show some of its inherent flaws. Mr Kerry has moved on and the two presidential hopefuls are now left to wrestle over its shortcomings.
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.
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.
July 7, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced the preliminary results of the country’s presidential election. According to the IEC’s chairman, Ashraf Ghani received 56.44 percent of the votes in the June 14 runoff; he had placed second during the first round of elections, with 31.56 percent. His opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, who fell just short of an outright majority in the first round with 45.00 percent, only received 43.56 percent in the runoff. The fact is that although the magnitude and scope of the fraud is unclear thus far, the integrity of the election has been tainted beyond repair. This has caused some, including Abdullah’s vice presidential running mate, Mohammad Mohaqiq, to describe the preliminary results as a “coup” against voters. Election observers have already noted that the number of votes cast in the runoff was not anywhere close to the 8.1 million quoted by the IEC; nor have they accepted the notion that 37.6 percent of that number reflects votes of women.
Secretary of state John Kerry said on Saturday both of Afghanistan’s presidential candidates were committed to abiding by the results of the “largest and most comprehensive audit” of the election runoff ballots possible. Kerry stood with the two candidates who are disputing the results of Afghanistan’s presidential election. He announced that finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah had agreed to abide by a 100%, internationally supervised audit of all ballots in the presidential election in Kabul. “Both candidates have committed to participate in and abide by the results of the largest and most comprehensive audit; every single ballot that was cast will be audited,” Kerry said. “This is the strongest possible signal by both candidates of the desire to restore legitimacy to the process.” The audit is expected to take a “number of weeks” and will begin with ballot boxes in Kabul. Ballot boxes from the provinces are to be flown by helicopter to the capital by US and international forces and examined on rolling basis. Observers from each campaign as well as international observers will be involved in the oversight of the review, and the candidate with the most votes will be declared the winner and become president.
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory in defiance of preliminary vote results showing he lost and considered forming his own government, despite U.S. warnings that the country risked losing financial and security aid. “There is no doubt we are the winners of this election,” Mr. Abdullah told supporters during a boisterous rally in Kabul. “We will not allow a fraudulent government for a day.” Before the rally, President Barack Obama called Mr. Abdullah and urged him to await a probe of ballot-stuffing allegations, telling him that “there is no justification for resorting to violent or extra-constitutional measures,” said White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. “We’ve been clear that any such move would cost Afghanistan the financial and security assistance of the United States,” she added. Mr. Abdullah said he would decide within a few days whether to form his own administration, a statement his supporters jeered because they wanted him to say he was taking power immediately.
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah defiantly told thousands of supporters Tuesday that he will declare victory in the country’s election, claiming massive fraud was responsible for preliminary results that put his rival in the lead. The United States warned both camps against trying to seize power, saying international financial and security support was at stake. The turmoil came as violence escalated around the country. A suicide bomber struck Afghan and foreign forces near a clinic in the eastern province of Parwan, killing at least 16 people, including four Czech soldiers. Abdullah said he received calls from President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and he was told that Kerry would be flying to the Afghan capital on Friday in a bid to help defuse the crisis. State Department officials accompanying Kerry in Beijing declined to comment on his travel plans.
Afghanistan: Election officials admit voter fraud, delay results in presidential vote | Associated Press
Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has the lead in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election, according to a preliminary tally released Monday despite allegations of massive fraud. The announcement came as Ahmadzai is locked in a standoff with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has refused to accept any results until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated. The Independent Election Commission acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and promised to launch a more extensive investigation before final results are released. “We cannot ignore that there were technical problems and fraud that took place during the election process,” the commission’s chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said. “We are not denying fraud in the election, some governors and Afghan government officials were involved in fraud.”
Ashraf Ghani edged closer to becoming Afghanistan’s next president after winning a majority of votes in a preliminary count of last month’s election, but officials stopped short of declaring a winner as millions of ballots could still be reviewed for fraud allegations. The country’s election commission said Monday that Mr. Ghani, a former finance minister, had won 56.4% of the vote in a preliminary count, against Mr. Abdullah’s 43.6%. But with his rival Abdullah Abdullah alleging widespread fraud in the June 14 runoff vote, the political crisis over the validity of the election’s results remained unresolved. One of Mr. Abdullah’s most prominent supporters, northern Balkh province’s powerful Gov. Atta Mohammad Noor, called late Monday for “widespread civil unrest” and warned of forming a “parallel government.” That statement drew a swift condemnation from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was speaking at the Yokota Air Base in Japan en route to high-level talks in China.
A growing number of Western officials are calling for an audit of the ballots cast in the Afghan presidential election, increasing the likelihood that the nation’s electoral commission will have to formally reassess the June 14 runoff vote even as it prepares to announce preliminary results. Ever since Afghans voted in the runoff, the system has been deadlocked by allegations of widespread fraud. The presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has consistently complained that his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, with the help of the commission and other Afghan officials, rigged the vote. Mr. Abdullah spent weeks threatening to walk away from the process, and his brinkmanship now appears to be paying off. The continued political crisis has forced some international figures off the bench, despite earlier efforts to avoid the appearance of involvement in the Afghan elections.
Afghanistan: Presidential candidate Abdullah preemptively rejects election results | The Washington Post
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has preemptively rejected the results of last month’s election, set to be officially released Monday, saying the country’s electoral commission was involved in widespread fraud that tarnished the legitimacy of the runoff vote. “Unless the clean votes are separated from those that are fraudulent, we will not accept the election results,” Abdullah said in a televised news conference Sunday night. “We will refer to the people” on how to respond to Monday’s announcement, he said. The stakes are high for a peaceful transfer of power, which would mark the first since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The fragile government here continues to battle a nationwide Taliban insurgency as foreign troops prepare to withdraw by the end of the year.
Recent developments have diminished the trust of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission IEC in the public mindset and further weakened the institution’s credibility and impartiality. Public trust in the IEC reached a new low following a press conference in which the IEC Chairman, Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, announced that the voter turnout was above 7 million only two hours after polling had closed. The basis on which this figure was calculated is highly problematic as election staff from all thirty-four provinces could not have had enough time to report their data to the IEC. Moreover, the trouble with the IEC’s 7 million-plus figure was that it crossed the record voter turnout of 6.9 million in the first round of the presidential election. As the first round fielded nine presidential candidates and the provincial council elections, it was expected that the combination of the two would generate a higher voter turnout. Critics therefore called into question the IEC’s seven million-plus number as the second round of the presidential election did not have provincial council elections and only fielded two presidential candidates.
Preliminary results from Afghanistan’s presidential election, due to be announced on Wednesday, have been delayed, an election official said, amid accusations of fraud that threaten to split the fragile country along ethnic lines. Votes from around 2,000 polling stations in the June 14 run-off are to be reviewed and recounted, said Sharifa Zurmati Wardak of the Independent Election Commission (IEC). The contest pitted former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah against former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani. “This will take nearly a week and the final result won’t be announced on time,” Wardak told Reuters.
On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s electoral commission announced that it would likely delay the preliminary result of last month’s presidential runoff until the weekend at the earliest. The result was originally scheduled to be made public on Wednesday. “The announcement of preliminary results is likely to be delayed until Saturday,” election commissioner Sharifa Zurmati said. “Around 2,000 polling centers are to be recounted because of alleged fraud.” In June, Afghans defied Taliban violence to vote in a presidential runoff between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank official Ashraf Ghani. Ballots were cast at 6,000 polling stations across the country. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) reported that 99.7 percent of the ballots had been logged into its database. IEC chief Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail resigned his post last week after Abdullah’s campaign released a phone conversation in which Amarkhail allegedly called for ballot boxes to be stuffed. Amarkhail claimed the recording was fake but said he was stepping down so that Abdullah would end his boycott of the vote.