Afghan IEC worker takes picture of an Afghan voter in 2019 presidential election

Concerns remain high on result of Afghan presidential poll

As Afghanistan’s top two presidential candidates struggle to win a majority vote to get elected as the country’s next president, many candidates warn that country will be mired into swamp of crisis if Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC) fails to ensure accountability in vote counting. The country’s election commission has repeatedly stated that the IEC will count those votes that are registered in biometric records, saying that those votes that are not registered in biometric records will be declared invalidated.

Following disputes on the issue of non-biometric votes, the incumbent president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, who is leading the state builder presidential ticket, announced his ticket will respect any decision that will be made by the IEC, the country’s only authorized organization that can make final announcement on election result.

The disputed 2014 Afghan presidential election brokered by then US foreign secretary John Kerry gave birth to National Unity Government with Ashraf Ghani sitting in the driving seat of it, and his main rival Abdullah Abdullah working as president’s chief executive. Though the US brokered National Unity Government rescued the country of collapsing down into deeper quagmire, the two leaders blamed each other for their failures. All the way through the reign of National Unity Government, Ashraf Ghani kept chanting slogan against some strongmen whom he saw as main barrier against good-governance while his chief executive along with a number of Afghan politicians, who had helped Ghani come into power, reproached him for his selective approach on fighting corruption and governance. Abdullah said that Ghani manipulated power in his hand.                   

Election watchdogs and civil society organizations have warned that the country will face new political challenges if any party puts pressure on the country’s election commission to count non-biometric votes—votes that are not registered in biometric records.

Najib Danish, a spokesperson for Ghani’s presidential ticket, told Kabul Now that the state builder ticket will respect any decision made by the IEC. But a number of presidential candidates including Faramarz Tamana, Rahmatullah Nabel and Latif Pidram have repeatedly warned that a widespread election fraud have taken place in favor of Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the two candidates who are still in power.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, another candidate who is running for 2019 presidential election, as early as last month, expressed serious concern over the issue of non-biometric votes. Mr. Hekmatyar, who is leading Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan, openly lambasted on Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, accusing them of waging widespread election fraud. He claims official record of the IEC suggests at least 10,000 votes have been cast in restive Rohani Baba district of eastern Paktiya province where even the government-appointed governor cannot go.                 

We will accept any decision made by the commission as it is the only authorized institution that is allowed to make the final decision,” Najib Danish said.

Amid election contest, Afghanistan’s senate speaker, Fazl Hadi Muslimyar, who is a close ally of Ashraf Ghani, bragged that he along with his supporters would force the IEC to count non-biometric votes. Muslimyar’s remarks from senate podium was followed by a widespread public condemnation and he made a public apology for his injudicious remark. Many presidential candidates were quick to condemn Muslimyar, warning that they would not allow the IEC to count non-biometric votes.         

Yousef Rasheed, executive director for FEFA told Kabul Now that non-biometric votes, if counted, will undermine the legal credibility of election. He called on all candidates not to interfere in IEC’s work and let it work independently. FEFA’s director underlined that on Election Day the IEC failed to do its job as guided by the code of conduct and election procedure.

Mawlana Abdullah, an IEC commissioner, says the Independent Election Commission will only count clean votes, emphasizing that the commission will not count non-biometric votes.

Concerns over outcome of the 2019 presidential election remain high whereas the IEC announced yesterday, October 05, that in some provinces as many as seven bio-metric devices and 21 date chips of the bio-metric devices were missing.            

Afghanistan is a country where democracy and election are a new experience for power sharing. The country’s recent history has been shaped by violent struggle for power.