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Afghan election gives rise to thousands of complaints

Independent election observers in Kabul have reported that 4,000 complaints of electoral fraud and irregularities had been lodged by Tuesday afternoon. Some four million voters are thought to have cast their ballot.

Some four million voters cast their ballot on Sept. 18

Some four million voters cast their ballot on Sept. 18

Over 4,000 written complaints of fraud and irregularities from all parts of Afghanistan were filed with the Afghan Electoral Complaint Commission by Tuesday afternoon’s official deadline.

Thousands of complaints about electoral violations were also received during the nearly three-month campaign. Many citizens are angry about the electoral process.

Abdullah Abdullah, who lost the presidential election to Hamid Karzai, has expressed his concern about possible fraud

Abdullah Abdullah, who lost the presidential election to Hamid Karzai, has expressed his "concern" about possible fraud

"It's not the Afghan population that is responsible for electoral fraud, it’s the government. They don’t want to share their power. And those who are responsible are those who have no interest in the elections taking place in a democratic way and are not convinced of the sovereignty of the law," Faizullah Jalali, a lecturer at Kabul University's law faculty, said.

Many of the complaints say that government representatives and local powerbrokers openly tried to rig the votes. There are allegations of ballot stuffing, double voting and underage voting.

Pressure on Karzai and IEC

President Karzai and the newly-compiled Independent Election Commission (IEC) are likely to come under considerable pressure.

The IEC will have to prove that it is not simply an extended arm of the president. However, its president Faiz Ahmad Manawi does not seem too worried: "Thank God, nothing happened to fundamentally put the electoral process into doubt. The complaints refer to individual cases. Most of these cases will be investigated. Perhaps some of the fraudulent ballots will be declared invalid."

After last year’s presidential elections, investigations led to over a million ballots being discarded by the official count. It is still too early to predict whether such a scenario will be repeated.

Women walk past election campaign posters

Women walk past election campaign posters

Ballots going for 20 US dollars a piece

Musa Fariwar, who himself stood for election, confirmed that there was electoral fraud: "On election day, ballots were even being sold in polling stations - for the equivalent of about 20 US dollars per ballot."

"Even before the election, some candidates were not disqualified as they should have been. Certain powerful people had their names put on the ballots so they could exert as much influence as possible on the local circumstances," Nader Naderi, the president of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, explained.

According to the electoral laws, people who support armed militias or have connections to them were not allowed to run. However, the official election commission seems to have turned a blind eye to certain warlords this time - like in the past.

The electoral campaign lasted almost three months

The electoral campaign lasted almost three months

Nader Naderi said it was important to not see everything negatively: "We have serious concerns regarding the elections. However, this does not mean we should ignore what the Afghan people achieved on election day. And it does not mean that foreign experts should use our concern to say that the Afghans are not ready for democracy."

So far, election officials have put the turnout at around 36 percent, with over four million people defying Taliban intimidation to cast their vote.

Author: Martin Gerner/act
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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