In this rugged country where ballots are counted by hand and election results are viewed with suspicion, impatient presidential candidates are not willing to wait for official numbers and have started counting votes themselves. After Saturday’s presidential election, tens of thousands of volunteers for the candidates are visiting polling stations across the country to call in results that have been taped on the walls of mosques and schools. The team of former finance minister Ashraf Ghani has created a website with pie charts and bar graphs that show partial returns as they come in, three weeks ahead of the expected announcement of the winner. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his website is projecting that he will be the victor (by a margin of 57 percent, with a quarter of the ballots counted). The days after the vote have transformed campaign offices into command centers where candidates’ staffs are calling around the country collecting photos and videos and complaints about alleged fraud, calculating vote totals and positioning themselves for a possible runoff election if no candidate passes the 50 percent threshold. The early and partial results, which have been bandied about on social media and are showing a tight race between Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, have galled the candidates who appear to be losing.
“It’s illegal work and it’s against all principles,” Gul Agha Sherzai, a presidential candidate and former governor of Nangahar province, said about the early totals in an interview yesterday.
“I think this is not correct for them to do,” said Gulbuddin Hillal, another candidate expected to finish far from the lead. “They are misusing the media. This is a joke on the election and on the people.”
Trucks loaded with plastic tubs full of ballots are making their way to the capital, and the official vote count starts this week. It is conducted by the country’s Independent Election Commission at a tally center in Kabul. Election officials said that partial and preliminary results will be released this week but that, until then, candidates should refrain from making their own predictions. “The candidates should not confuse the public mind by posting or publishing baseless and inaccurate election results,” said Noor Mohammad Noor, an election commission spokesman.