Watchdogs and candidates lambast on IEC, calling it biased

Afghanistan’s election conundrum has entered into a new phase after the Independent Election Commission (IEC) failed to start recount process. A number of presidential candidates have protested against vote recounting process but IEC insists upon recounting process.      

Afghanistan Independent Election Commission stopped votes recounting process on Wednesday, November 13, after three prominent presidential tickets—led by the incumbent Chief Executive Abdullah, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Rahmatullah Nabil—boycotted the process, protesting against what they see as validating non-biometrically verified votes or votes cast beyond voting time limit on the Election Day, September 28.

The IEC leadership held meetings on Thursday and Friday with the three presidential tickets to provide clarifications and solve the issue but in vein.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the clarifications made by the IEC during the meetings, spokespersons of the three tickets said the IEC officials were trying to justify “rigged and uncertain votes.”

Hawa Alam Nooristani, chairwoman of the IEC, speaking at a press conference in November 16, said that the IEC has given clarifications in the meetings held on Thursday and Friday. She noted that the IEC secretariat office, particularly national and international specialists, have found 137,630 votes—previously quarantined by the Dermalog Company—as valid votes following a thorough analysis.

Protesting tickets accuse IEC of vote manipulation

Accusing the IEC of attempting to manipulate election results in favor of the incumbent president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, the protesting presidential tickets say the commission is acting in contrary to the law and regulation.

Abdullah Abdullah, speaking at a press conference on Sunday, November 17, declared IEC’s latest decision as illegal, warning that it will not be acceptable. Implicitly pointing to the state builder ticket led by Ghani, Abdullah claimed that the IEC is “receiving order from a presidential ticket.”

The Council of Presidential Candidates, in a statement issued yesterday, November 17, called on the IEC to solve internal differences and remain impartial.  

Arif Kayani, a member of justice and security presidential ticket led by Ramatullah Nabil, told Kabul Now that IEC commissioners had nothing to tell for the protesting ticket during the two day meeting rather than ‘justifying invalid votes.’ He reiterates that over 300,000 are invalid. Kayani claims that the IEC is under ‘threats by the ruling ticket.’

Payenda Mohammad Hekmat, a spokesperson for Abdullah’s ticket, also described IEC’s clarifications as unsatisfactory and accused the IEC of violating the law. “The commission admits that some votes have been cast even a day before and after the Election Day,” he claimed.

Javid Faisal, who is a spokesman for the state builder ticket, accuses the three tickets led by Abdullah, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Rahmatullah Nabil of creating barriers against the election process.

Electoral watchdogs accuses IEC of violating election law

In the face of new electoral controversies, electoral watchdogs blame the IEC to have made decision in contrary to election law.

Naeem Asghari, a member of the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA), underlined that the IEC was insisting upon its previous stances in meetings held on Thursday and Friday. “The process, which is not running transparently and in line with law, will certainly face stalemate and make crisis,” he noted.

Habibullah Shinwari, program manager of the Election Transparency Watch Organization of Afghanistan (ETWA), said IEC’s decision to recount votes cast in 2,423 polling stations is ‘illegal.’

Soghra Saadat, a member of TEFA says the IEC does not have technical capacity to take a right decision. “The election commission is under pressure by the presidential tickets,” Ms. Saadat stated.