Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

2010 Elections 15: What a Kunar Candidate Complains About

Martine van Bijlert 5 min

These days are filled with stories of electoral fraud and irregularities, copies of complaints forms, grainy videos, and the wait for some solid results to be posted on the IEC website. Some reports are more detailed than others and some are so detailed and illustrative that they are worth repeating.

The following is a report given by one of the Kunar candidates, describing what happened – at least according to his observers – in eleven polling centres spread across three districts. The same information, with more detail, was provided to the Electoral Complaints Commission, when he handed in his eight complaints. The information provided is obviously one-sided and self-serving. But although this makes the picture incomplete, it does not necessarily make it less credible. As such it provides a useful account of what the elections may have looked like in areas that were insecure enough to allow fraud, but contested enough to see a considerable level of local checks and scuffles. It also provides a taste for those who may not have the privilege of being visited by complaining candidates, of how the vote is being fought over.

Dangam district

In Dangam district irregularities were reported in four polling centres. In Bidad (polling centre 1107054) unknown gunmen started shooting at the centre as soon as it opened. A relative of one of the candidate observers was wounded and most voters and observers fled and didn’t come back. At around 10:00 the ballot boxes were taken to the private house of the Watapur district governor, who is originally from Bidad, where they were allegedly? filled in favour of Senator Haji Sakhi. Haji Sakhi is from Asmar in Bar Kunar, but shares a tribal affiliation with many of those living in Dangam (he is from the Meshwani tribe), as does another candidate Mudir Sultan Mohammad. The complaining candidate believes that the shooters were also supporters of Haji Sakhi and that they had climbed the mountain the night before with the express intention of instigating an attack on the polling centre.

The security responsibility for three other polling stations in Dangam (Sur Kamar/1107053, Qasem/1107055, and Zur Barawar/1107051) was in the hands of a border police commander, who happened to be a cousin of Haji Sakhi, while the polling centre manager in Qasem was also related (his father was Haji Sakhi’s sister’s son, which in Afghan terms is pretty close). Both are said to have worked in favour of Haji Sakhi, by selectively letting in voters and by adding votes in his favour.

In Zur Barawur the boxes from the female polling stations were taken to a private house, conveniently located next to the house of a local commander. His armed men guarded the area and did not allow any observers in. The excuse was that the men had no business in a female polling station, even though there had not been a woman in sight for hours.

The four polling centres contained a total of 15 polling stations, representing up to 9000 ballots (600 per polling station). The results per polling station, once posted, will show whether the ballot stuffing and intimidation in these stations was as effective as the complaining candidate believes it was.

Pech valley

In Dara-ye Pech district the pressure of the insurgency was heavily felt. In Shahilam (1103021) the polling centre was supposed to have opened in the local school, but there was fighting in the area all day and the boxes were moved to Manu village in Ningalam area, where they were reportedly filled in favour of two candidates from Pech: Haji Jagran Nayan and Saleh Mohammad. Haji Jagran is from Manu and his brothers are thought to have taken custody of the boxes, together with Saleh Mohammad’s brother, who is now a senior police officer at the provincial level, but he used to be district police chief in Pech. He is said to have gone to the area a few days before the elections to make appropriate preparations. Ningalam also had a planned polling station, in the local madrassa (1103020), where – according to this candidate – no irregularities took place.

Khara (1103028) was described by the complaining candidate as ‘Taleban central’. Observers reported that fighting in the area had lasted all day, keeping the voters away, and allege that the boxes were filled in favour of Saleh Mohammad (in this centre he apparently did not pair up with Haji Jagran). They maintained that the stuffing was possible because the staff was local, describing them as “officials by day and Taleban by night”.

The area around Waredish (1103025) was tightly controlled by insurgents. Although there was no fighting, there was also no real vote. Locals however reported that at the end of the day the boxes were still full. IEC staff was said to have been offering whole books of ballots, each containing 100 votes, for 30,000 kaldar (around $350) a piece. Three candidates were said to have taken them up on the offer (Haji Saleh, Jagran Nayan and Rahimdad).

The polling centre in Manogay (1103023), finally, was supposed to be opened in the local high school, but was instead set up in a shop (Sabar Lal market). The candidate agents argued and tried to bring the boxes back to the school – one of them even got into a fight with Sabar Lal’s cousin – but they were unsuccessful. They believe that Sabar Lal and the IEC staff worked in favour of Jagran Nayan and Saleh Mohammad.

Chowki district

When the polling centre in Tarnab (1112093) opened around 8:30, the observers were told that the ballot boxes were in a room, but they were not given access – which led them to conclude that ‘the vote’ had already taken place the night before. The attacks started soon after, with fighting continuing during most of the day. A representative of the main candidate in that area, Mawlawi Shahzadah, an MP since 2005, put the ballot boxes in a car and took them away. Local NDS staff later tracked down the boxes and brought them to the district centre – reportedly quite full. The complaining candidate claims that he had already filed a complaint with the ECC well before election day, indicating that the IEC staff in this centre had been bought by Mawlawi Shahzadah and were likely to work in his favour.

In Kolmani (1112091) and Jamiat high school (111290) voting took place, but there was a lot of underage voting. There is video footage of young boys and girls coming out of the polling centre with voter cards and some – not all – of them with inked fingers, and of voter cards with pictures of very young children. There is also footage of a group of women sitting next to a car, who were allegedly being driven around by a cousin of Shahzadah to vote several times. And there is footage of half a dozen men crouched around a little stream, who are scrubbing the ink off their fingers with mud and water.

Jamiat high school is conveniently located next to Mawlawi Shahzadah’s madrassa – at the other side of a shared wall. During the day boxes were handed over the wall to be filled next door. There were scuffles and local NDS staff intervened, after which the practice was stopped for a while, but it resumed shortly after. Video footage that is said to have been shot there shows an IEC staff member sitting at the table handing out ballots. On the table there is a stamp pad but no stamp and the complainers allege that it was taken elsewhere to allow ballot stuffing (which is quite possible, particularly if the ballots in the original location were stamped in advance).

These reports are detailed enough to allow a thorough ECC investigation to take place. They are also detailed enough to be checked for accuracy, once the results (per polling station) are posted. And they vividly illustrate the strength of local loyalties, and the role of violence, relatives and money, for those who are watching the vote from afar.
The central questions remain: How will the IEC deal with the shoddy results forms that are bound to come in from these areas? How will the ECC investigate the complaints and how will they rule? And, most importantly, what internal checks are there to stop the manipulation from within?

Tags:

Democratization Elections Government

Authors:

Martine van Bijlert

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