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Afghanistan Faces Electoral Crisis – OpEd

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Afghanistan presidential elections were held on 28, September 2019, amid huge threat by Taliban militants to attack voting centers and prevent the democratic process but Afghans defied all sorts of threats and exercised their rights to vote. Afghans took part in the presidential elections to determine their future through ballot boxes and voted in a very volatile situation, they wished that the preliminary result of the presidential elections would be announced on the scheduled date with clear result and will have an elected president, the turnout was low this time in comparison to the previous presidential elections because of the security threats and Afghans did not find an attractive candidate to vote.

The Independent Elections Commission (IEC) delayed the result for several weeks to ensure transparency. The move was welcomed by president Ashraf Ghani, presidential elections nominees and foreign embassies based in Kabul. The elections commission didn’t announce the preliminary elections result on time and restarted the recount process of votes but faced opposition from the convergence and stability electoral thicket led by chief executive and elections runner Abdullah Abdullah. Abdullah withdrew his elections observers from the voting management body and called for the halt of the votes recount process and his supporters protested in front of elections commission offices in several provinces.

A few weeks back Abdullah in a press conference claimed that he won majority of votes and is ahead of other elections candidates. First running mate of state builder electoral thicket Amrullah Saleh in response to Abdullah’s remarks said the elections commission has the right to announce the elections result. While this is the duty and responsibility of the election commission in accordance with the Afghanistan electoral laws to declare the votes result. His premature victory announcement questioned the legitimacy of the electoral bodies and create obstacles in its way to move forward the process freely and announce the preliminary result on the stipulated date as Afghans yearn to see the result. His victory claims were rejected by elections commission and considered this as its right to declare the result. The delay in announcement of the poll result created tensions among elections nominees and there is possibility of political crisis.

Ordinary Afghans are concerned once again over the repetition of the 2014 disputed presidential elections scenario which created electoral crisis and divisions among people on the basis of ethnicity and their expectations to have an elected president were dashed to ground after the elections went to crisis.

At the same time there are tensions inside the elections commission as a few days’ back one of the elections commissioners Maulana Abdullah threatened the director of the digital tally center to death and insulted his ethnicity and religion which sparked reactions from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

UNAMA sent an official letter to the election commission and called for interrogation over the reports of the IEC commissioner’s mistreatment. The commissioner denied the allegations that he insulted anyone in the elections commission. The elections commission doesn’t show the real figures of the exact number of voters, has been issuing different figures, and didn’t maintain its independence.

The foreign embassies based in Kabul intervened in the work of the elections commission and sometimes foreign ambassadors visited the election commission and meet the presidential candidates which created mistrust among the people, harmed the independence and credibility of the elections commission, the undue political interference would lead to an electoral crisis.

Questions arise why do the foreign ambassadors go to the elections commission and what are they doing there? Do they lobby or force the commission to declare a particular person as winner? Supporters of some of the candidates hurl insult on each other and declare their nominee as winner before the official announcement.

Some elections contenders give mixed views on the elections result, a few days back, Justice and Stability electoral thicket led by Rahmatullah Nabil said that the elections doesn’t have winner in the first round and must go to the second round. Some of the elections contenders especially Gulbadeen Hekmatyar, former warlord and elections nominee called for the formation of an interim government to hold elections for the second time. This is the third time a fort-runner elections nominee Abdullah Abdullah makes allegations of fraud and doesn’t accept the elections result.

In 2009, Abdullah didn’t accept the result and insisted on the second round of elections and questioned the elections commission’s independence. The 2014 presidential elections were marred by fraud as in the first round none of the candidates achieved the required votes to be declared as president. The elections went to the second round between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. Ghani secured majority of votes in the second round but Abdullah opposed the vote result announcement by the elections commission. Abdullah accused the elections commission and Ghani of fraud.

The issue became so problematic which led to the Intervention of the US secretary of States John.Kerry to broker a deal between Abdullah and Ghani as a result the National Unity Government (NUG) was created while Abdullah got chief executive position, the creation of UNG was against the constitution of Afghanistan.

This time it seems that the elections candidates wouldn’t accept the announcement of the elections result and there is possibility of electoral and political crisis. The elections commission needs to reveal the exact number of voters, prevent political interference in its internal affairs, announce the poll result independently and transparently, maintain its impartiality, respect to the decision of the elections commission by candidates, the international community specially the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan and the European Union support the announcement of the poll result and take necessary measures to prevent electoral and political crisis in Afghanistan.

Given the current deteriorated security situation of Afghanistan, the electoral crisis could have economic political and security consequences, and would give a big blow to the legitimacy of the Afghan government.

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