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.
The gap of approximately one million votes has been perceived by presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s camp as the IEC’s attempt to artificially inflate the voter turnout as a means to create the necessary numerical space to stuff ballot boxes in favor of his opponent, Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai. The IEC’s inflated figure has gained notoriety since Abdullah’s lead over his competitor was 887,494 votes after the first round of the election, meaning that at least a million votes are needed to swing the election. Bridging this gap would be a significant challenge as low voter turnout was reported by a prominent domestic observer organization, the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan TEFA, whose director, Naeem Ayubzada, openly called the IEC’s figures “inflated” and remarked that voter turnout was between 5-6 million. In terms of electoral fraud, the chairman of FEFA, Nader Nadery said it appeared that “fraud has happened in different parts of the country but we just don’t know the scale of it.”
A second development which tarnished the legitimacy of the IEC transpired when its Secretariat Chief, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail was stopped by the police chief of Kabul for attempting to transport unused ballot material out of the IEC headquarters after polling had ended. His attempt was broadcast live on Afghan television and the incident sharpened widely held fears of electoral fraud. In the aftermath of this development, neither the IEC nor Amarkhail could offer a reasonable explanation to clarify his actions thereby generating suspicion that the unused ballots were intended for fraudulent use.The IEC’s initial refusal to suspend or investigate its head of secretariat resulted in Abdullah’s team to cease its cooperation with the IEC and called for U.N.-led mediation. Furthermore, Abdullah’s team appears to have devoted its resources to unveiling Amarkhail’s and by extension the IEC’s role in electoral fraud.
Full Article: Was the Afghan Election Stolen?.