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Tricks and ruses in the Afghan election

These elections were supposed to choose a president and to democratically transfer power from Hamid Karzai to another

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Published: Updated:

As developments in Iraq regarding Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attract the world's attention, other acts of violence have slowly but efficiently increased. If we look at Afghanistan, we'd realize that just a week after the presidential runoff, popular anger and frustration regarding the results of the elections - which seem to enjoy no transparency - only need a spark to explode into great chaos.

These elections were supposed to choose a president and to democratically transfer power from Hamid Karzai to another. However, this whole thing turned into a huge disappointment for the entire country as reports of vote-rigging have surfaced. Now, the two presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani stand against one another and the country is divided into two camps. Candidate Ashraf Ghani said he completely trusts the independent electoral commission and is resuming his work with it while Doctor Abdullah has withdrawn his monitors and representatives at the commission and is boycotting the voting process.

Dr. Abdullah has accused the independent electoral commission and the committee tasked with looking into electoral complaints of carrying an organized fraud campaign.

In some unsecure disturbed areas, people doubt that the number of counted votes match the number of people eligible to vote. Those eligible to vote in these areas are almost one third of the votes cast! A report on this has been submitted to the independent electoral commission. There are also many questions which haven't yet been answered such as those linked to the number of ballot cards sent to elections' centers and such as those linked to the number of unused cards returned to the independent electoral commission. Meanwhile Abdullah urged the international community to commit to neutrality and be transparent. Candidate Ashraf Ghani's campaign rejected the fraud allegations while Doctor Abdullah boycott all the commissions and all the measures taken by them. Abdullah also suggested forming a joint committee headed by the United Nations and tasked with supervising the electoral process.

Forgery reigns

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan reminded of the following in a statement: "Electoral bodies have to demonstrate the highest levels of transparency and integrity and continue to proactively respond to valid candidate concerns." Secretary General Special Representative for Afghanistan Jan Kubis said: "All efforts should be made to ensure that all valid votes are counted and all invalid ballots rejected – such efforts will have our full support." But what happened in these elections wasn't anywhere near the transparency the U.N. is calling for. Videos published on YouTube and other social networking websites showed people marking ballot cards and casting them in ballot boxes a day before the elections kicked off. Some videos also showed some people arguing about the amount of money they will receive for this fraud.

Many influential tribal leaders, former heads of the independent electoral commission and Dr. Abdullah inquired how and upon whose approval were these additional ballot cards given to forgers.

During a television talk show, Azizullah Ludin, former head of the independent electoral commission, suggested to only hold elections in the areas where forgery occurred and which are estimated at around eight provinces. He also suggested forming a joint team that includes the candidates as well as international observers to monitor the electoral process.

These elections were supposed to choose a president and to democratically transfer power from Hamid Karzai to another

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Actually, it may not be possible to hold partial elections especially in the areas which are considered unsecure. However this suggestion shows that some have seriously begun to think of a solution that contributes to helping the state resolve this crisis.

Interestingly, influential leaders in Afghanistan's eastern regions - where indications revealed high turnout of votes in favor of Ashraf Ghani - have come to Kabul and claimed during a press conference that these votes are forged.

Hakim Vali, a tribal leader at the Khost province, told me all the votes cast by women in the Khost province are considered forged. He said: "how can the independent electoral commission prove that our wives, mothers and sisters casted their votes when there's only one electoral center allocated for women in downtown and when the percentage of participation was very small?" Other prominent leaders from the Pashtun tribes from the Paktika and Paktia provinces, like Asmanallah Zadrani denied there was a high voter turnout in this province. As everyone, beginning with ordinary Afghani citizens and ending with prominent politicians in Karzai's administration, believe there was fraud in favor of Ghani, no party investigated such allegations.

Someone close to Doctor Abdullah's campaign and who refused to reveal his identity said they do not blame Ghani for the extensive forgery. He said: "We think there are hidden hands behind this fraud and that the aim is to stir disputes between the presidential candidates and to stir clashes and confrontations on the national level." President Karzai said he will commit to neutrality clarifying that "these elections and the provocations they result in will not cause a crisis to erupt in the country."

As some domestic and western powers pressured Dr. Abdullah to accept this forgery and as the union one way or another pressured Ghani to form a coalition government, some activists began to warn Karzai's administration as some youths published photos of themselves carrying weapons clarifying that they may resort to resisting forgery and traitors. After Doctor Abdullah finished his press conference on Thursday afternoon and left the hall, he suddenly called on journalists to return to the hall again to announce something important. He went to the podium and said: "I forgot to tell you that it's impossible to form a coalition government. We hope we don't confront a crisis but he who betrayed the people's trust must be worried of the possibility of the eruption of a crisis."

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 22, 2014.

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Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

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