Afghanistan tackling almost 4,000 poll complaints
KABUL (AFP) – Afghanistan’s electoral watchdog said Wednesday it was dealing with almost 4,000 complaints over the parliamentary election, which has been tainted by accusations of fraud and Taliban intimidation.
Election officials said 4.3 million Afghans voted on Saturday despite insurgent threats and attacks, in their second parliamentary poll since the 2001 US-led invasion overthrew the hardline Taliban regime.
Counting has been completed in most of the country’s 34 provinces and partial results — subject to change as allegations of multiple and proxy voting are investigated — are being sent to Kabul for validation.
An announcement on preliminary results is expected on October 9 with final results due October 30, according to the Independent Election Commission (IEC).
The IEC says some fraud is “inevitable” but has affirmed its commitment to working with the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) “to eliminate the effect from the final results insofar as possible”.
The ECC said it had received a total of 2,064 complaints relating to irregularities on polling day after a Tuesday deadline for submissions expired.
ECC commissioner and spokesman Ahmad Zia Rafaat told AFP that 1,700 official complaints had been adjudicated relating to the pre-election process that began in April — bringing the total number so far to 3,764.
Afghans can register complaints about any part of the electoral process within three days of an alleged irregularity, and many more are expected over problems with the post-election process, such as vote counting.
“We keep receiving complaints every day,” said Rafaat.
More than a million ballots were found to be fraudulent in the August 2009 poll that returned President Hamid Karzai for a second five-year term.
More than 2,500 candidates stood for the 249 seats in parliament’s lower house, or Wolesi Jirga, but at least 1,300 polling centres were unable to open because security could not be guaranteed.
Afghanistan’s main election observation body, the Free and Fair Election Foundation (FEFA) fielded 7,000 observers, and detailed thousands of vote day irregularities, including use of fake voter cards and bias of election workers.
The Asia Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) released a report Wednesday saying the election was “marred by a series of security threats and misconduct” including political interference by local strong men in provinces.
ANFREL said there were problems with a shortage of ballot papers, multiple and proxy voting, as well as problems with indelible ink — supposed to guard against a person voting more than once — that could be washed off.
“We call upon the ECC and PECC to enforce electoral justice by investigating all complaints and concerns of the election stakeholders through proper adjudication channel; fair and transparent process,” the report said.
ANFREL is a regional network of civil society organisations which works to promote and support democracy at national and regional levels in Asia, according to its website.
This year, complaints will be handled by Provincial Electoral Complaints Commissions (PECCs) and only appeals will be heard at the Kabul headquarters, following a new electoral law passed by Karzai that increases his oversight of the body.
Voters turned out on Saturday despite Taliban threats to derail the election, and NATO said at least 22 people were killed in polling day violence.
The United States and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have almost 150,000 troops in the country fighting to bring an end to the war, which is dragging towards its 10th year.