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.
“They were drawing good salaries out of this budget… but now there is very limited number of foreigners and everything will be done by the Afghans,” said Nooristani of the advisers, whose number will drop from 160 last time to a maximum of 60.
On the ground, however, the signs are not encouraging.
Corruption among election staff is rife, according to both U.N. and Afghan sources, and even those that want to remain independent fear their lives may be in danger if they try to stop fraud. Many key roles in the IEC remain vacant just five months before the poll.
There is also a severe shortage of female staff, which threatens to exclude most women from voting and makes polling stations for women harder to monitor and so more vulnerable to cheating.