Last month on September 28, around three million Afghans voted for their next president amid heavy security and deadly bomb attacks. Only one-third of the total nine million registered voters had turned up to polling booths following threats from the Taliban and loss of faith in the electoral process.
The elections, fourth since the US attacked Afghanistan in 2001, have been scarred by allegations of fraud and foul play.
The polls were scheduled to be held on April 20, but the country’s election commission delayed the date to July 20 seeking time to verify voter lists and to train election workers on the biometric identification system.
However, the date was extended even further to Sept 28. But on election day, voters did not turn up to polling centers. Security threats from the Taliban coupled with the lack of trust in the elections kept them away from the ballot boxes.
Although militant attacks on voters and polling officers and centers were lower than anticipated, around five people were killed and 76 others were critically injured after some centers were attacked with rocket launchers. The process was also marred by irregularities from the Afghan election officials including voters not being able to find their names on the list and faulty biometric voting devices.
But despite a lapse of more than four weeks, the country’s election commission is nowhere near to reaching a final tally which has raised questions on the veracity of the entire exercise.
But that did not stop the two incumbent office-bearers Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah from declaring victory. On Sept 30 — just two days after the voting was completed, Abdullah said that “we have the most votes in this election.”
Amrullah Saleh — Ghani’s running mate, while speaking to Voice of America also claimed victory, saying that “the information we have received showed that 60 to 70 percent of people voted for us.”
Around 18 contestants filed their nomination to contest elections but to win, a candidate must secure more than 50pc votes, in case s/he doesn’t, another round of voting is held between the two leading candidates.
But as Ghani and Abdullah claim victory, other candidates are levelling allegations of fraud and interference. Enayuttulah Hafiz, a presidential candidate, even warned that he will reject the results if the election commission fails to consider the “widespread fraud [that] took place on election day.”
The candidates alleged that both Ghani and Abdullah have used the state’s resources to interfere in the election by casting fraudulent votes in some parts of the country to tilt the result in their favor. Some reports suggest that in certain provinces, non-biometric votes were cast without verifying voters’ names on the lists.
The candidates have urged election commission to invalidate non-biometric votes cast during the election while warning that failure to do so will force them to reject results.
But as contestants trade barbs against each other, it seems that Afghans will have to wait for the official results for a few more weeks. The commissioner for Afghanistan’s election authority, last week on Oct 15 said the results “will not be delayed more than three or four days, or more than a week.” She added the election staff is working in three shifts to accelerate the process.
Delays in results, allegations of fraud, and interference by the incumbent leaders is likely to result in voters losing their faith in the entire electoral process.