Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

2010 Elections 12: Behind the complaints

Martine van Bijlert 10 min

Candidates, candidate supporters and observers are awaiting the posting of the preliminary results, to see what has been made of the messiness that surrounded much of the polling. The first partial result was released on 23 September 2010 – Panjshir with 66.7% of the vote counted – but the results per polling stations are still missing. The Electoral Complaints Commission, in the meantime, has received over 3000 complaints since the vote. The media is filled with complaining candidates, critical analysts and shrugging voters. Before the days become filled with lists and numbers, a few conversation excerpts:

“I didn’t vote, but I did help one candidate – a little bit. There is a female candidate from my home province, Wardak, we have known each other for a long time. As far as I know she has never worked in government. So I gave her the voter cards of my wife and my daughter. Not the actual cards, but the numbers that were written on the cards. She said she could use them. Another candidate, who is a cousin of a Minister, said that he spent $200,000 on his campaign and that he would surely get himself into parliament. He wanted me to gather cards for him, but I refused.” – Voter originally from Wardak

“In Kandahar city probably not more than 4,000 votes were cast, but I just got information that one of the female candidates bought 5,000 additional votes from the IEC. She wants to get into Parliament. We all worry about this kind of interference. Let’s see what kind of results will be posted on the internet.” – Female Kandahar candidate

“In Farah there was no real voting in the districts, only in the provincial centre. But in one of the districts, in Porchaman, four or five candidates managed to arrange so many votes through fraud that it seems they have won. All the other candidates are up in arms. They have gone to the ECC to complain and to the governor. It was also on television. It has become a big issue.” – Government official, Farah

“There were not that many votes in the Hazara areas this time. In many places there were not enough ballots. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but it meant that less people could vote. And in some areas people just didn’t vote that much. Many of them lost confidence after the Presidential elections. (…) I don’t think it was intentional that they sent less ballots. But some people say it was meant to harm the vote of Mohaqeq and his people and that he would have brought more candidates in Kabul, if the ballots had not run out. But Khalili seems to have done even worse. Many Hazaras are upset with the government, because the Hazara ministers kept getting voted off.” – Politician from Bamyan

“My campaign workers were threatened by another candidate a few days before the elections not to campaign for me anymore. He beat the head of my office and the deputy and a few of the boys. He was threatening them with a gun, saying they could get killed if they campaigned or voted for me.” – Female candidate in Kabul

“So far, the four candidates with most votes in Uruzgan are all from Khas Uruzgan district – two Hazaras and two Pashtuns [Uruzgan has three seats, one is reserved for a woman]. The Pashtuns from that district are saying that the Hazaras did fraud. They are trying to get the Hazara centres disqualified, so they can take the seats. But the Pashtuns from other areas are saying that the whole district should be disqualified, so that they can win. I am with the Hazaras on this: there was at least as much fraud in the Pashtun areas. For instance, my observers were looking everywhere for a polling centre. The DFC [District Field Coordinator] sent them here and there and every time there was nobody. In the end they found the polling centre hidden in a local madrassa. There were no voters – nobody knew where the centre was – but the boxes were already full.” – Pashtun candidate from Uruzgan

“The polling centres in our province were a voter exchange market. Gumnen (topaksalar) were forcing the voters and polling staff how to vote. People who had money were buying voter cards in the polling centre. There were fake cards, the ink didn’t work, people were filling boxes. The DFCs were cooperating with the fraud. Most of the districts were insecure.” – Candidate supporter in Nangarhar

“Now the fraud is in the hands of the foreigners. If they cancel the votes, the votes will be cancelled. Basically, they decide who gets into Parliament and who doesn’t. Do you understand what I am saying (sar-e tan khalas shod)? It is in their hands now. (…) Some people say the foreigners want a Parliament that will support Karzai. Others say they want a Parliament like the one we had. Let’s see what happens.” – Candidate supporter in Kandahar

“Many of the candidates have come to Kabul to fix their votes. In the province they say they have won and then they come to Kabul to try to add votes. Manawi, the head of the IEC, says that this is not possible and that the IEC is not involved in those kind of things. Let’s see. (…) One candidate in Herat spent 1.5 million dollar to make people vote for him, but he only got 2000 votes. All of his helpers said they would give him thousands of votes, so he expected a total of 11,000. But when he asked his observers for the green papers [copies of the result forms that are given to observers after the local count], they all said they didn’t have any. He gave 20 lakh afghani ($40,000) to one person who promised him a lot, but in the end he arranged only 80 votes. The candidate was so angry when he found out he was tricked, that he detained six people, saying: I paid you, now where are the votes. In some cases the candidate agents didn’t even vote for them. One candidate had eleven agents in one polling centre. When the votes were counted he had received only two votes. He had paid them and provided transport and in the end they voted for somebody else.” –Herat candidate

“Most of the fraud in our province took place in Qades district. Three district governors and the deputy governor are all from this district. They interfered and forced people to vote the way they wanted to. Everybody knows. The other candidates all gathered and went to the government offices and the UN and the human rights office and the police to complain. We gave interviews to the media. There was also a lot fraud in Jawand. Tens of thousands of ballots were sent to this area and the district governor gave them all to his people to fill the boxes. The boxes were returned to the provincial centre very late, like four or five days after the election.” –Badghis candidate

“In Kunduz 150 polling centres were opened but about 20 of them were only used by the arbakai (local militia). Two candidates had deals with the district governors, the arbakai and the local Taleban that they would cooperate with them and provide them the opportunity to cheat and fill the boxs. In Khanabad a commander entered the polling centre with armed soldiers and threatened the IEC staff and the voters to vote for a certain candidate. Polling centres were moved around. There were also a lot of fake voter cards used by some candidates’ supporters and the quality of the ink was so poor. Some candidates had rented houses near the polling stations. They took their supporters here immediately after the vote to wash off their fingers and get ready to vote again.” – Candidate from Kunduz

“The election was much better than I had expected. It was better than last year. I saw a lot of polling sites and I think no one could do fraud or add votes or change the lists – at least not in Kabul. I don’t know how many votes I got, because I didn’t have many observers. But for instance in the polling station close to my house Qanooni got only 16 votes. The other candidates who got votes all had 3 or 4. So it was a real vote. (…) People were talking about the fake voter cards, I don’t know from where they came. Some say the IEC was selling them for $2 a piece – not the leadership, but at the local level. This is a big worry of all candidates. And also the changing of the vote counts.

The main problem in this election was that the campaign period was so long. I am very tired. I had no one supporting me financially, so I didn’t have a very good campaign. Still I tried. There was no support for women candidates. Just one office called me and said they would print 1000 business cards but I told them that was not necessary and that I could pay those 900 afghani ($18) myself. And one of the big candidates called me in once and said we could cooperate and that his observers would work for me also. But those are all lies. The observers just get paid for the day and then they tell the candidate that he received so-many votes here and there, just to make him happy.” – Other female Kabul candidate

“As far as I know there have been no complaints filed in Daikondi. You see, the people who have power have nothing to complain about. They got the votes they needed. And if they have a problem, they can solve it themselves. The people who have no power can’t really complain. They might get into trouble and they don’t trust the process. I will give you an example. One of the observers saw that the head of the polling station was telling voters how to vote. He took pictures of what he saw. When the station manager noticed it, he warned one of the commanders. These are the commanders who still have weapons and who can do what they want. The commander threatened and intimidated the observer. He deleted his pictures and recordings. Now he has no proof anymore. I told him that he should file a complaint anyway, but he said that he was happy that he had only been threatened and not been beaten. He said he feared that if he complained he might get killed. But I am still trying to persuade him.” –Independent observer, Daikondi

“The district governor of [one district] phoned several candidates on the evening after polling day. He told them there were many votes left and he offered to sell them. The police chief and local head of NDS were also in on this. The next day he phoned the candidates again and told them the price had now gone up, because time was running out. Some people recorded the conversation; you can hear him arguing with the candidates about the price. Later that day somebody warned the ANA. They went to the place and found them stuffing and took all the boxes. In that district there were maybe 60 real votes, but they had already stuffed 1600 votes for one candidate. They were going to add votes for three more candidates, but the ANA intervened before they could. No, the ANA did not detain the people. How could they? These people have friends in high places.” – Candidate supporter in Kandahar

“During polling day the police chief called me. He said that he had arrested people who were doing fraud and who said they belonged to my daughter. I told him to keep them detained and that we would sort it out the next day and that everyone who did fraud should be arrested. But he let them go. This proves that they were not really our people. I believe it was a trick by one of my daughter’s rivals. (…) My daughter’s rival did a lot of fraud. She was allowed to use cars in the city by the security organs – who did not allow anybody else, so we had to go around by bicycle – and her people were transporting voters to the polling stations and then back to a house where they washed off the ink. Then they changed their clothes and went to vote again.” – Father of a female Nimruz candidate

“In Wardak in many places the ballot boxes never arrived at the polling station. Or they did arrive and then they became full without a single voter having voted. The main candidates made deals with each other, that they would fill boxes for one another as well as themselves, so that they could spread their votes in the different areas. (…) In Nerkh district there were five polling centres that could not be found. The candidate observers warned the governor and the police. Later the boxes turned up at the IEC – full. The DFC must have been involved, because whenever anyone called and tried to find him he gave a wrong location. One box from this district was not counted at night. When the observers came for the count the next day, there were suddenly two boxes. Neither of them had a code and it was not clear where they had come from. In Seydabad district a candidate and his men were filling the boxes. It became a big scuffle. The DFC was hit in the face, they broke his nose and his teeth, because he had tried to stop it and because he had been filming. They also destroyed his camera and phone and took his memory card. Everybody knows. Even an ISAF patrol visited the centre while this was going on.” – Wardak candidate

“In one school in central Kandahar one of the boxes in the female station had already been filled before the voters came. My observers saw it, and so did the FEFA observers. So they made a fuss. There was another centre close to the city, in Dand district, where there were no boxes at all when the observers came. They were taken somewhere else. There are so many reports that the filling of the boxes started on the night before, for instance in Spin Boldak. People saw the boxes being taken to houses and bases. And there are many reports that they were still filling on the day after the election.

In Arghandab on the day before the election at one polling station the police suddenly fled. One of the candidates passed by with his armed guards and took the boxes to his house. He filled the boxes at night and during polling day. Another candidate also stopped by and added votes for himself. At the end of the day they sent the boxes to the provincial headquarter. The IEC staff could say nothing. They were taken along and were forced to turn off their phones until everything was finished.” – Other Kandahar candidate

“The IEC decided not to have a female polling station in one of the areas, because it was too dangerous, but a relative one of the candidates turned up with several women and he opened the station anyway. He will probably be using the votes in favour of his sister, who is a candidate.” – Independent observer in Zabul

“One of my workers went to a campaign lunch a few days before the elections. On polling day the campaign workers gave him $50, twenty fake voter cards and some washing liquid. He and his brother each voted around nine times in one of the high schools. You should check if this candidate won many votes in this high school.” – Kabul businessmen

I can accept an election where each candidate gets their own votes: 20 or 50 or 70 votes. But not 200 or 500 or 1000 votes for only one candidate in areas where all kinds of people live. They should remove these votes, but they should keep the real votes, the small numbers, the 10 and the 20 and the 50. There was a lot of fraud. For instance, in Khanabad at a female station the door was locked at 08:30 and the boxes were filled. At the end of the day the arbakai didn’t allow the observers to stay for the count. They said all the votes in this centre are for [this candidate]. (…) We complained to the ECC and they said they would investigate. But how can they, with all these armed people around? You have to follow it from the centre, otherwise nothing will happen.” – Other Kunduz candidate 


Democratization Elections Government


Martine van Bijlert

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