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A worker rests on top of ballot boxes at a warehouse of the Independent Election Commission center (IEC) on August 24, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

Loopholes in Afghan Electoral Process 2014

by: Dr Khesrow Sangarwal
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan is probably one of the world’s most under-resourced election authority conducting one of the world’s most complicated and challenging elections. Millions of dollars of international aid might have resolved the issue of funding the 2014 Presidential Election, but it is the poverty of authority at the commission, and the fragility of the process itself that concerns the spectators.One of the nomination criterion for 2014 presidential hopefuls is the provision of the names, signatures or thumb-prints, and voter registration card numbers of  100,000 voters from 20 provinces. So far 27 individuals have registered with the commission as potential presidential candidates. The commission has about 12 days to go through 2.7 million names in order to verify the authenticity of their support. Concerns have already been expressed with regards to the means some candidates have used in obtaining the 100,000 signatures. The commission’s ability in conducting an operation of this magnitude is discernibly doubtful.

Moreover, a number of potential presidential candidates flexed their muscles by being accompanied to the commission by high profile government officials. This has not only threatened the authority of the already weak Election Commission, it has also signalled the possibility of interference in election proceedings by local authorities. Such a scenario will inevitably cast doubt on the legitimacy of elections in those areas.

The lack of security in some areas of Afghanistan is another challenge that can potentially threaten the legitimacy of the elections. At the 2010 parliamentary elections, the commission failed to secure hundreds of polling stations in many areas of remote provinces. This resulted in large masses of people unrepresented in the Wolesi Jirga, giving way to a legal and electoral conflict that continued for months.  A similar shortcoming on the security of the 2014 presidential elections can have far more serious repercussions.

The Afghan Electoral Complaint Commission (ECC) also has a fine role to play. It needs to keep a difficult balance between preventing gross irregularities in the pre-election nomination process, and not falling into the trap of lengthy legal and investigative proceedings that could potentially result in postponement of elections, or disruption of the entire process. Investigating a candidate’s past misconduct is not a battle that should be fought by the ECC. The commission can only decide on the convictions that a court of law has already settled. This is not to say that the presence of un-convicted criminals in election tickets is a morally and ethically justified occurrence.

The ECC’s real assertiveness and positivism will be tested after the Election Day when it will be asked to investigate the alleged electoral irregularities. This process has been previously discredited due to intrusions by candidates in the previous elections. Little is known about the procedures in place for investigating the electoral irregularities by the ECC.

Overall, both the IEC and ECC have adequate legal authority to conduct fair elections. The practicality of doing so can only be ensured by a display of a sense of responsibility by the government, and the candidates and their supporters.

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