Political Landscape

2010 Elections 9: So how did the elections go?

Like others we have been fielding questions all day on how yesterday’s elections went. And we’ve been saying the same thing in all its variations: it’s too early to tell. It will take several days for the initial reports and impressions to settle. It will take a bit longer to filter out the distortions. Then we will have a fair picture of the impact of violence and how bad the situation was in terms of manipulation and fraud. By that time the turnout figure, in terms of actual numbers, should have also stabilised.

It will then take the IEC and ECC weeks to work their way through the reported results, the allegations and complaints, and all the variations of irregularities. It will take the observers months to figure out what really happened and whether the electoral institutions played the system or not – if ever. All along there will be competing and contradictory claims about what this has done for the credibility of the process and the legitimacy of the government. And there will be controversy surrounding every step of the process, as every step provides opportunities for candidates to get ahead of their rivals.

But while the details come in, collapsing some of the reports and making others only more colourful, there are already some indicators to be found in the formal figures. According to the latest IEC update 11 out of 22 provinces had not yet finalized the vote count on Sunday afternoon and one province, Nooristan, had provided no information at all. Keeping ballot boxes overnight and delaying the reporting of results are well-known tactics to allow tampering. From many parts of the country reports have indeed been coming in of ongoing ballot-stuffing, well into the next day. In some cases IEC staff and local government officials approached candidates, letting them know there were still votes on offer (some of these phone conversations are said to have been recorded), while in other cases the stuffing was pre-arranged. Kandahar particularly seems a place to watch, but there are many others.

Turnout figures – the actual numbers, not so much the percentages that international observers seem obsessed with – will most probably become the first big issue of contention, as local IEC staff, government officials and other interfering parties will be trying to pass up inflated numbers after the initial counts have been reported. This did not seem to have been an issue in earlier elections and will not go down well if it is one now. It seems difficult to imagine that, for instance, the original reports of 3 votes cast in the 25 polling stations in Andar district, and none in Qarabagh, will remain uncontested (Andar and Qarabagh were among the districts where many Ghazni provincial council members managed to arrange thousands of votes last year).

There are other ambiguities. On Sunday afternoon there were still 157 polling centres of which it was not clear whether they had opened or not (47 are located in Nooristan). This means that they have either been out of contact for almost two days now, or that they have been awarded extra time by the district or provincial IEC staff. There will be probably pressure in the coming days to accept many of these centres as having opened, as well as attempts to argue that several of the centres that were reported as closed, were in fact up and running.

The main controversies are also emerging. They include the distribution of polling centres and the allocation of ballot papers, the noise around the fake voter cards and the ink, the hijacking of whole polling stations, and the battles that will ensue over quarantining decisions and the adjudication of complaints (for more on that see AAN’s report “Who Controls the Vote?”).

The full picture has not yet emerged, but it seems pretty clear what many of us will be busy with over the coming the days.

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Thematic Category: Political Landscape