IECC races against clock to address election disputes

Afghanistan Independent Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC) is running against the clock to meet the deadline set for assessment of election related complaints. The IECC began assessment of election complaints nearly three weeks ago.

The IECC recently has asked the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to allow IECC provincial offices access to electoral database in election main headquarter in Kabul.    

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, January 05, Mohammad Qasem Elyasi, the IECC Spokesperson, said that the IEC had not taken any action in regard to request made by the IECC. “The election commission has not given us a clear response. They have said that they would make a decision regarding this [request],” he added.

According to Mr. Elyasi, some election related complaints cannot be assessed unless IEC provincial offices are authorized to access the database.      

The IECC main headquarter in Kabul does have accessibility to electoral database and yet transferring complaints from provincial offices to central office of the IECC is a time consuming job, IECC authorities say.  

Zohra Bayan Shinwari, chairwoman of the IECC, while expressing concern over inaccessibility of the IECC’s provincial offices to the IEC database, warned that the issue would cause delay in process of addressing election complaints. She said that they should create users for IECC’s provincial offices so that the IECC would be able to complete assessing complaints timely.

Election watchdog organizations, however, express deem concern over a likely delay in assessment of election related complaints. Zubair Habibzada, spokesperson for the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, told Kabul Now that the issue could prolong the process of addressing complaints. He added that it could push elections process into abyss of crisis.

Mirza Mohammad Haqparast, an IEC spokesperson, however, said that the IECC headquarter does have accessibility to the system and could assess complaints through its Kabul office. In regard to providing accessibility for the IECC’s provincial offices, Mr. Haqparast said that the IEC would decide over the issue by late Sunday’s night.

Classification of over 16,000 complaints

The IECC started assessing thousands of election related complaints on December 26, 2019. The IECC chairperson, then, said that they had received around 16,500 complaints filed against preliminary results of the presidential elections. She, however, noted that the number of complaints could rise as it was not the final figure. Of those complaints, around 14,000 complaints were filed in provinces while around 2,300 complaints were registered in Kabul.

According to Mrs. Shinwari, the IECC has now classified 16,551 complaints in different groups.

The IECC has classified 3,272 complaints as ‘electoral crimes’ cases; 4,303 complaints as ‘electoral violation’ cases; and 1,371 complaints as ‘electoral offends’.

According to the commission, 6,881 complaints have been filed about difference between biometrically verified votes and result sheets, 282 complaints lodged about votes cast before polling hours, and 381 complaints about votes cast after the polling hours on the Election Day, September 28. 657 complaints have been registered over votes without biometric data.

Three major presidential tickets led by the incumbent Abdullah Abdullah, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Rahmatullah Nabil, were strongly opposing the recount and audit process started by the IEC. These candidates have repeatedly said that around 300,000 votes are controversial and disputed. As results of the protests held by Abdullah’s supporter, the IEC could not start recount process in seven northern provinces until leadership of the team called the protesters to let the IEC proceed with the process.

According to the preliminary results announced on Sunday, December 22, President Ghani is the leading candidate with 923,868 of votes which counts for 50.64 percent of the total 1,824,401 votes cast in the elections. His main rival is the incumbent Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah who has received 720,990 votes (39.5%), followed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar with 3.85 percent, and Rahmatullah Nabil with 1.86 percent of the votes.

Authorities at the IECC say that 1,380 complaints filed with the election complaint commission are ‘unjustifiable’ cases. They say 12,578 complaints have been categorized as ‘credible’ complaints.    

According to the IECC, 8,000 complaints have been filed by Abdullah’s ticket, 4,400 complaints have been filed by Hekmatyar’s ticket, and 3,761 complaints have been filed by Ghani’s ticket while 15 complaints have been by Nabil’s ticket.  

Assessment of complaints

Mr. Elyasi told reporters that assessment of complaints was completed in the northern Takhar province and it would be completed in Parwan, Panjshir, and Badghis provinces by late Sunday’s night.

The IECC has yet to complete the process of assessing complaints at least in 30 provinces, including Kabul, though it is obliged to finalize the due process and announce results of assessment within 15 working days.

The country’s independent election complaints commission has just three more days, according to the Election Law, to complete assessment of all election related complaints, a task that has put it on the back of a galloping horse.