Afghan Independent Election Commission staffs count ballot papers after polling station closed in Mazar-e- Sharif

Claims of premature victory undermine performance of Afghan electoral commissions

Afghans voted in presidential election amid security threat and fear of violence on Saturday, even as the Taliban insurgents had warned to attack polling centers.

Hours after the first round of presidential election closed, a number of campaigners of the two large field candidates began to claim victory, publishing figures and result sheets from various polling centers on social media.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) asked all Afghan social media users and Afghan voters to refrain publishing unofficial figures about election result.

Speaking at a press conference in Kabul on Saturday, September 28, Mohammad Rafi Sediqi, head of IEC’s press committee, said most figures circulating on social media are ‘fake and false.’ He stressed fake figures circulating on social media would undermine the legitimacy and credibility of election.

“We urge all citizens, political parties, civil society organizations, and candidates not to publish fake news and misinformation,” Sediqi reiterated.

With 13 contesters including the incumbent president Ghani and chief executive Abdullah, the 2019 presidential election was held on Saturday, September 28, in 34 provinces of the country.

Appearing in a joint press conference at the end of the Election Day, Asadullah Khalid and Masood Andarabi, acting defense and interior ministers, confirmed that out of 5,373 polling centers, election was not held just in 467 centers.  

A part from ordinary social media users, some senior promoters of the leading candidates along with high ranking government officials kept publishing unofficial figures on social media.

Farhad Kavosi, a Kabul resident who posted result sheet on social media, says by posting figures on social media he wants to prevent vote rigging in election process. He justifies that to make sure no fraud has taken place, he will compare the official result with the result sheets he has published on his social media account.   

A number of civil society organizations say figures and information published by most supporters of the candidates are fake. According to Yousuf Rasheed, executive director of the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA), misinformation about result of election would cause chaos. “Publishing wrong figures and misinformation on the turnout and votes cast for a specific candidate do not fit any standard,” Rasheed argued. He underlined that a number of supporters of the leading candidates and government officials are violating election law.

Zubair Habibzada, a member of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), says the IEC is the only authorized institution that can announce election result. He noted that publishing wrong figures and misinformation about election will confuse public opinion.  

Ali Kawa, a social activist, believes a number of supporters of leading candidates publish fake news about election result just to claim victory.

The United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMA) and UK Embassy in Afghanistan have also urged all parties to act responsibly. In a tweet posted on Sunday, September 28, UNAMA said it has not and won’t speculate on turnout numbers. “UNAMA awaits IEC announcement.”

UK Embassy in Afghanistan also urged the election commission and complaint commission to fulfill their responsibilities impartially, efficiently, and transparently. “All candidates and their supporters should refrain from premature claims of victory or unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.”

According to Ali Kawa, supporters of candidates make premature claims of victory for the electoral bodies are weak.  He believes that the election commissions have failed to win trust of voters.

Looking at the large picture, the election process, flawed though it may be, is the alternative for power sharing in a country as complex as Afghanistan, with its myriad tribes and ethnic groups all wanting a slice of the cake of power.