Afghanistan: Election contender Ghani dismisses fraud claims | AFP

Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday defended himself against electoral fraud allegations that have tipped the country into a political crisis, vowing to fight for every ballot cast for him. Ghani’s poll rival Abdullah Abdullah has said he will reject the result of the ongoing vote count due to what he claimed was “blatant fraud” committed by Ghani, the election authorities and outgoing President Hamid Karzai. “I ask Dr Abdullah as a national figure to respect the rule of law,” Ghani told supporters in his first speech since the dispute over alleged fake votes erupted. “We are all tired of the language of threats and unlawfulness… Our votes are clean, and we will defend each vote,” he said. Ghani, who travelled abroad for dental treatment after the June 14 election, returned to Kabul to deliver an uncompromising message to Abdullah, who has boycotted the Independent Election Commission (IEC). “It is the people’s right to elect their leader through votes. Some people have created a situation where they threaten that right,” he said.

Afghanistan: Thousands march on Afghan president’s palace to protest election | Reuters

Thousands of angry protesters marched on the Afghan president’s palace on Friday in support of candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s allegations that mass fraud had been committed during the presidential election by organizers and state officials. The run-off pitting the former Northern Alliance leader against ex-finance minister Ashraf Ghani on June 14 has fallen into deadlock over Abdullah’s decision to drop out last week. The impasse has revived longstanding ethnic tensions in Afghanistan because Abdullah’s base of support is with the Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group, while Ghani is Pashtun, the largest group. It also comes at a dangerous time, with the Taliban insurgency still raging and most NATO-led forces preparing to leave the country by the end of the year. Abdullah joined protesters aboard a small truck, driving alongside the crowd and waving a flag.

Afghanistan: Abdullah widens lead in Afghan presidential vote | Reuters

Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah’s lead in the Afghan presidential race has widened, the latest official tally of votes released on Sunday showed, although half of the votes have yet to be counted. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission said initial results based on almost 50 percent of the vote out of the total 34 provinces showed Abdullah in the lead with 44.4 percent, followed by ex-world bank official Ashraf Ghani with 33.2 percent of the votes it said were not fraudulent. “The lead we were expecting, it didn’t come as a surprise, but perhaps we were expecting a bigger lead,” Abdullah told Reuters in an interview at his home in Kabul. “We are still hoping the elections will be completed in the first round.”

Afghanistan: For Now, It Is Ballot Over Bullet In Afghanistan | Eurasia Review

On April 5, 2014, the Afghan nation voted to elect what is supposed to be the country’s first post-ISAF and post-Karzai government. This was the third time that presidential and provincial council elections were held in the country since the overthrow of the Taliban regime over a decade ago. The entire election process, however, is supposed to conclude with the third round of parliamentary elections which should be due sometime next year. This basically means that the April elections mark the beginning of a long-drawn complex process extending over a year. The whole exercise in due course will test the strength and credibility of the Afghan institutions and the resolve of the Afghan people to take the political process to its logical conclusion. It is not merely about change in leadership; it is about ushering the country into a ‘decade of transformation’ (2015-24) by further institutionalising a relatively inclusive political culture which could cater to the rising scepticism as well as aspirations among the Afghan people. It is about building a political order which is in tune with the changing socio-political realities, mindful of the several challenges ahead, the most important being, how to keep the international community engaged. Like the incumbent president, the next leadership in Kabul too will have to confront similar challenges: managing divergent perceptions and factional interests, competing patronage networks and parallel power structures at the sub-national level, seemingly irreconcilable ideological positions of the Pakistan-sponsored Haqqani-Taliban network and, most critically, sustaining the current constitutional framework to the extent possible.

India: Voters lured by cash handouts, drugs, bootleg liquor | Reuters

Indian election officials have seized a record $36 million (21.52 million pounds) dollars of cash concealed in cars, private planes and even ambulances that they say was destined to buy off voters and pay for expenses over and above the spending limit. Opinion polls show the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies coming to power thanks to the popularity of Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi and widespread disgust with the Congress party, whose last years in power have been dogged by corruption scandals and a sharp economic slowdown. Despite the dramatic political change it could bring, the 2014 election would appear to be the same grubby game of cash-for-votes that has marred previous ballots in the world’s largest democracy, only this time on a far bigger scale. Cash seized in the three weeks since the staggered election was announced has already surpassed the 1.9 billion rupees for the whole of the 2009 ballot period, the commission said. Voting in this year’s election began on April 7 and winds up on May 12.

Afghanistan: Impatient Afghan candidates are counting their own votes | Washington Post

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.

India: A Preview of India’s 2014 Election: How Will 800 Million People Choose Their Next Leader? | International Business Times

India will embark Monday on the biggest democratic election in global history with some 815 million eligible voters, more than all the people in the U.S., Russia, Japan and Nigeria combined, casting ballots in a six-week process to elect a prime minister. It’s a logistics tour de force: Voting will occur at 930,000 polling stations across India from April 7 to May 12. It’s also more complex than an election in a direct democracy. Rather, based on the British parliamentary system, Indians vote for 543 legislators who then appoint a prime minister from the party that amasses a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament, where each state in India has proportional representation, as in the U.S. House of Representatives. The independent Election Commission of India will count votes and announce results on May 16. If no one party has amassed a simple majority in parliament on that date, parties will have only a few weeks of frantic negotiations in which to form alliances and name a new prime minister.

Afghanistan: Credibility of Afghan Vote in Doubt as Observers Flee Violence | New York Times

Usually, an Afghan election — a $100 million, Western-funded exercise — draws foreigners to Kabul like flies to honey, with incoming flights full of consultants, international monitors, diplomats and journalists. Not this time. Now, it is the flights out that are full, and the incoming planes are half empty. With the possible exception of journalists, foreigners have been leaving Afghanistan like never before during an election period after a series of attacks on foreign targets and the commission running the vote. An attack on the offices of the Independent Election Commission went on all Saturday afternoon, with staff members hiding in armored bunkers and safe rooms while five insurgents fired rockets and small arms at the commission’s compound, having sneaked into a building nearby disguised in burqas.

Afghanistan: 45 days until Afghan provincial council and presidential elections |

The Independent Election Commission in Afghanistan said it met with U.N., human rights officials and foreign representatives to review plans for the April vote. The IEC said members of the Afghan Human Rights Commission met in Kabul with election officials, U.N. officials and foreign envoys to discuss April elections. A running clock on the IEC website says elections are in 45 days. Jan Kubis, U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, said national officials should coordinate more closely to ensure the results of the April presidential and provincial council elections are accepted by winners and losers alike.

Thailand: Court Rejects Opposition Bid to Throw Out Elections | Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government won a key victory Wednesday in the uphill struggle to form a new administration when the Constitutional Court rejected a bid by the opposition to annul the Feb. 2 election. The ruling clears the way to hold new polls in districts that were unable to vote because of disruption by opposition boycotts and protests. The independent Election Commission has set makeup voting to be held on April 20 and April 27 in those districts. However, the commission has yet to seek a way to hold voting for 28 electoral districts that haven’t even been able to even register candidates because of opposition protests—the scenario that has left the country short of the 95% threshold of the total 500 seats required to seat a new Parliament. The opposition Democrat Party’s application to the court had maintained, among other things, that the election poll wasn’t constitutional because voting wasn’t conducted nationwide on the same day. The chief of the Democrat Party’s legal team, Wiratana Kalayasri, said that he “respects the court’s opinion” but said that he would petition the court again “should the government make any more mistakes.”

Afghanistan: Presidential campaign to begin | Boston Herald

The posters are printed. The rallies are organized. A televised debate is planned. Campaign season for Afghanistan’s presidential election kicks off Sunday, and the stakes are high for the 11 candidates vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai and oversee the final chapter in a NATO-led combat mission. The April 5 vote is a pivotal moment in Afghanistan’s history, its outcome seen as make-or-break for the country’s future and key to the level of foreign involvement here after nearly 13 years of war. Billions of dollars in funds are tied to the government’s holding a free and fair election — the first independent vote organized by Afghanistan without direct foreign assistance. Amid a surge in violence from the Taliban ahead of the NATO combat troop withdrawal at the end of the year, the poll also will be a crucial test of whether Afghanistan can ensure a stable transition. And the West will be watching the vote as means of gauging the success of its efforts to foster democracy and bolster security over the past 12 years.

Afghanistan: Security remains a challenge before Afghan polls | Xinhua

As Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections is getting closer, both the election commission and the citizens are increasingly concerned that security challenges may disrupt the polling process. “Security problems have remained the main challenge before holding elections and it is a matter of concerns for the Independent Election Commission(IEC),” spokesman for the election body, Noor Mohammad Noor told Xinhua recently. He also confirmed that the election commission had failed to open registration centers for voters in four districts of Bagran, Disho, Kakar and Alasai in the country’s more than 400 districts because of security problems. Afghanistan’s third presidential and provincial councils’ elections are slated for April 5, 2014 in the post-Taliban nation amid Taliban threats to disrupt the process. Meanwhile, Noon Mohammad Noor, the IEC spokesman, admitted that security problems are a challenge for the historic polls scheduled for April next year.

Afghanistan: Election season off to a messy start | Associated Press

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.

Afghanistan: Only Woman Running for Afghan President Gets Disqualified | TIME

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.”

Afghanistan: Election Commission begins voter registration for 2014 polls | The Hindu

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: Vote law change planned ‘to fight fraud’ | AFP

Afghanistan’s election commission has drafted proposed changes to the country’s election law in a bid to prevent fraud in future parliamentary votes, an official said Sunday. Afghanistan’s 2009 presidential election and the parliamentary election held a year later were both characterised by widespread electoral fraud. “We have used the previous election experiences to prepare the new draft to improve future elections,” Independent Election Commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told AFP. “In the new draft around 50 percent of the electoral law will be changed.”

Editorials: Iran: Strange elections with strange results

Imagine a game in which you fix the rules, choose the players, hold a veto over the results and, yet, go on to cheat. This is what happened last Friday with the ninth set of legislative elections in the Islamic Republic in Iran. As always, the regime decided who was allowed to stand and who was not. Then, the task of running the exercise was given to the Ministry of the Interior rather than an independent election commission as is the norm all over the world. No need to say, the results could be changed or canceled by the Council of the Custodians, the mullah-dominated organ of the regime. So, with such a configuration, why cheat?

Kuwait: Government moves to set up election commission in Kuwait | Kuwait Times

In a surprising move, the Cabinet yesterday reviewed two key election reform draft laws presented by Prime Minister HH Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, one of them calling for the establishment of an independent election commission. The second bill calls for setting up of an independent national committee for supervising election campaigns in a bid to ensure equal and fair opportunities to all candidates contesting the polls.

The two draft laws were then referred to the Cabinet’s legal committee to study its details before they come back to the Cabinet for final approval, according to a statement issued following the Cabinet’s weekly meeting. The two draft laws will not be issued immediately as they will be referred to the next National Assembly which will be elected on Feb 2. The establishment of an independent election commission has been among the main demands by the opposition to reform the election process which has been under the supervision of the interior ministry since 1962 when Kuwait began adopting the parliamentary system.

Afghanistan: Afghan president appoints new election officials | Reuters

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has named three new commissioners, including a former provincial governor, to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), a body that has faced criticism in the past for failing to stand up to government pressure. The internationally-funded IEC has been at the centre of a standoff between the Karzai administration and parliament over a fraud-marred 2010 vote in which it threw out nearly a quarter of all votes over fraud and technical complaints.

Two of the new commissioners are former members of parliament, Rida Azimi from Parwan province, and Sayed Hashim Folad from Nangarhar, while the third official is Ghulam Dastagir Azad, who was earlier appointed by Karzai as governor of Uruzgan province.

A spokesman for the seven-member IEC said the appointments had been made following the end of the three-year terms of three officials. The terms of two other officials was extended, while the remaining officials were in the middle of their term.

Congo: President Nears Election Victory |

President Joseph Kabila on Thursday was poised to claim victory in an election marred by delays, fraud allegations and violence. With 90% of ballots counted, Mr. Kabila had 48% of the vote, while his closest challenger, opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, had 34%, Congo’s independent election commission said, with full results expected on Friday.

Mr. Tshisekedi, a former prime minister, has rejected partial tallies released this week showing him trailing Mr. Kabila. His defiance has sparked street protests by his supporters in Congo and even European capitals. On Thursday, sporadic clashes between protesters and police broke out in the capital, Kinshasa. Supporters of Mr. Tshisekedi accused police of opening fire in front of the candidate’s home, wounding several people. Attempts to reach Mr. Kabila and the police were unsuccessful.

Despite poor management and fraud allegations by the opposition, the international community has been restrained in its criticism of the vote amid concerns that wider unrest could erupt in the war-ravaged country.

Jordan: Reforms irreversible, preps underway for municipal, parliamentary elections | Jordan News Agency

His Majesty King Abdullah II said in an interview published today that there is no back-pedaling on reforms, unveiling that preparations are underway to hold municipal and parliamentary elections soon.

In an interview with the Kuwaiti Al Rai newspaper’s Khairallah Khairallah during the just-concluded World Economic Forum on Dead Sea shores, the King said “the next phase in Jordan’s march is one of issuing legislation and laws to go ahead with the process of political and socio-economic reforms.” The Kingdom, he said, had taken major milestones along the path of reform, mainly completion of constitutional amendments that required a drastic review and passage of legislation with a vision of comprehensive reform.

He said the new government’s priority is pursuit of the reform and modernization drive and “fulfillment of the requirements of this stage,” adding that the choice of Awn Khasawneh to form the government was due to his credentials as a reputable international jurist and for his acceptance at the domestic scene. He said the new administration will seek to put in place new legislation governing political life, first and foremost of which are the electoral and political parties laws, which should be ratified through consensus, in addition to an independent commission overseeing elections and the constitutional court.

Afghanistan: Election Officials Offer to Release Voter Fraud Findings | VoA News

Afghan election officials say they stand by their decision to expel nine lawmakers from parliament for voter fraud, even though one of the unseated politicians vows to continue a hunger strike until she is reinstated.

The head of Afghanistan’s election commission said Tuesday that they are ready and willing to make public how they arrived to their decision. Despite the government’s ruling, Simeen Barakzai has vowed to continue her hunger strike outside parliament in Kabul.

Ivory Coast: Gbagbo party quits Ivory Coast election commission | AFP

The party of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo said it has pulled out of Ivory Coast’s election commission, which is preparing December polls aimed at normalising the country after a deadly political crisis.

The Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) “is suspending its participation in all activities of the Independent Election Commission,” party secretary general Laurent Akoun said in a letter to the body’s president Youssouf Bakayoko, dated Tuesday and released to the media on Wednesday.

Afghanistan: Afghan Election Panel Seeks to Expel Nine Legislators |

Afghanistan’s election commission on Sunday sought to bring the nation’s year-long political stalemate to an end, ordering the unseating of nine of the parliament’s 249 lawmakers for electoral fraud. The decision was meant to defuse a feud between President Hamid Karzai and the parliament stretching back to last September’s fraud-riddled legislative elections.

Mr. Karzai, who decried the parliament’s makeup as unrepresentative because of the fraud, paved the way for Sunday’s announcement earlier this month. Then, acting under strong international pressure, he dissolved a special elections court and recognized the Independent Election Commission’s authority to rule on the issue.

The special court, filled with judges appointed by Mr. Karzai, had been widely viewed as an attempt by the president to change the election results and dilute the increased power of his rivals. The court had called for the replacement of 62 of the parliament’s members.

Afghanistan: Election commission ruling may raise more problems than it solves |

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has made a decision that aims to bring to a close nearly a year of drama and conflict following the country’s parliamentary election last fall. On Sunday, the IEC said it would remove nine of the 62 sitting members of parliament a special court ruled should lose their seats due to electoral fraud.

The decision is meant to be a final step in closing a dispute between President Hamid Karzai and the parliament that paralyzed the legislature and caused a constitutional crisis. Many of those losing their seats, however, say they will not accept the decision which may cause the electoral turmoil to drag on even longer. Among many Afghans, today’s attempted resolution for this standoff will do little to restore the government’s image, marred by its inability to efficiently find a solution and hold elections without widespread fraud and corruption.

Afghanistan: Election commission expels 9 lawmakers |

The Afghan election commission on Sunday expelled nine lawmakers who faced election fraud allegations.

A special court set up by President Hamid Karzai had been prosecuting alleged electoral fraud by 62 parliament members. The nine were among them. The election commission announced the expulsions Sunday, four days after the special court was dissolved.

Afghanistan: Some lawmakers to lose seats after IEC election review | AlertNet/Reuters

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Thursday said it will remove some, but not all of the 62 parliamentarians whose victories were thrown out by a special court set up by a decree from President Hamid Karzai.

The special poll court’s June ruling rejected results for 62 lawmaker seats, or about a quarter of the 249-member assembly elected in a fraud-riddled poll in September of 2010, raising the prospect of a standoff between Karzai and the parliament. The tribunal carried out recounts and dismissed the 62 on grounds of alleged voting irregularities. The IEC, which ran the foreign-funded election, at first opposed the tribunal’s decision, but last month said it would review it.

Afghanistan: Thousands protest over Afghan vote rigging row |

Afghan lawmakers and thousands of their supporters took to the streets of Kabul on Tuesday to protest at the latest twist in a row over fraud in elections last year, officials said. Afghanistan is currently gripped by what experts say is a constitutional crisis over the results of the fraud-tainted parliamentary elections in September last year and how many lawmakers should be disqualified as a result.

President Hamid Karzai last week ordered the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to resolve the long-standing dispute and it is expected to announce within days its decision on how many members of parliament will be kicked out.

“There are about 3,000 people, members of parliament and their supporters demonstrating around the parliament building,” Hashmat Stanikzai, a Kabul police spokesman, told reporters.

Afghanistan: U.N. pushes risky plan to resolve Afghan election impasse |

The United Nations is quietly pushing a plan aimed at healing a rupture between President Hamid Karzai and the opposition-dominated parliament that threatens to ignite a full-blown constitutional crisis, two international officials said.

The proposal, however, risks inflaming the feud and triggering charges of foreign interference with the country’s electoral commission, which is supposed to be independent but has had its credibility battered by two successive fraud-marred national elections.

The U.N. is pressing the commission to overturn for alleged fraud the results of 17 of last year’s 249 races for parliament’s lower house, the officials said on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The number is far fewer than the 62 contests that Karzai wanted reversed, but stops short of granting opposition lawmakers’ calls for no changes at all.

Afghanistan: Karzai Annuls Afghan Court Reviewing 2010 Polls |

In a startling reversal on Wednesday, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan annulled a special court that he had set up to review the results of the 2010 parliamentary elections.

The decision, which came after months of pressure from Western diplomats, reaffirms the authority of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, which finalized the results of the election last November only to have its authority undermined by the creation of the special court. It was also an acknowledgement that President Karzai’s effort to change the makeup of the new parliament through the court was hurting his administration more than helping it.