Political Landscape

AAN Election Blog 33: So what do we do with the audit?

Afghan men register to vote at a registration centre in Mir Bacha Kot, some 25 kilometres north of Kabul, 5 July 2004. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai

Afghan men register to vote at a registration centre in Mir Bacha Kot, some 25 kilometres north of Kabul, 5 July 2004. AFP PHOTO/SHAH Marai

The audit has come to an end. So now… proportion… sample… fraudulent… calculate… disqualify… certify… And then we will have a result. And I am sorry for everybody who is feeling almost relieved, but I really need to say this:

Can we please stop pretending that “the process” will give us “a result”. That we will then finally know whether or not this election “goes into a second round”. The process in reality will give us a random outcome, which will have little relation with how people voted (and we probably do not even want to have a real second round – it is one thing to call for one on principle, but quite another to actually try and have one).

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that the audit is a smokescreen for tampering or manipulation – if it ever was, it has by now become so muddled that most people have lost their way in the smoke. Seriously, for the last weeks we have not been able to get two people in a room who understood and could agree on what the precise methodology of the audit was and how it would affect the total results. There have been all kinds of half-correct and conflicting methodological details mentioned in media reports. The ECC is issuing a third statement on the audit, because it needs to rectify the explanation that it gave earlier to clarify the original briefing. We have all had hours of confusing conversations with calculators, ECC statements and hypothetical vote totals.

But the methodology is not only confusing, it is also not really tried and tested. There have been precedents in partial elections (apparently in a province in Iraq and in a single US state) but apparently never on a national scale. And probably with good reason. The margin of error may be the smallest that can be calculated, but with possibly over a million votes in the “universe” even a small margin of error represents a lot of votes. To call this “according to international standards” seems a bit of a stretch (unless you consider international standards to mean that it has been done in other countries as well).

It is all very shaky. In a few days we will have a result, but it will be pretty random. The margins may be so small that different procedural and statistical choices would have given a different outcome. We would have probably been better served over the past few weeks with some more political improvisation rather than this emphasis on procedural creativity.

And in case anyone thinks we may be almost finished, we still have the provincial council elections. They may not figure in our strategic priorities, but if we ever want to move towards less fraudulent elections we should be quite worried. But that is for another blog.

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Thematic Category: Political Landscape