The ECC has forwarded the names of 413 candidates to the Attorney General’s Office, while the Attorney General’s Office has initiated investigations into both electoral bodies. As the various branches of government argue over how the process should have been done and who is to blame for the flaws, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no centre of gravity, no body that has the final say. The calls to not announce — or not accept — the final results are increasing.
The Electoral Complaints Commission announced today that it has forwarded a list with the names of 413 Wolesi Jirga candidates – accused of involvement in electoral violations – to the Attorney General’s Office. The list was originally sent to the ECC by the IEC. The ECC has informed the accused of the cases against them, but does not seemed to have initiated any investigations of its own, nor does it seem to have added any names.
The provinces with most accused include Herat (45), Baghlan (44) and Kandahar (35), while Baghlan probably has the highest proportion with 37% of the total number of candidates being introduced for investigation. The list further includes 5 female candidates, 22 Kuchis (out of a total of 52), and 62 incumbent candidates. No names have been released, but the details per province can be found below (*).
The ECC has additionally asked the IEC to provide the names of the staff members that are accused of complicity in the electoral violations, so that it can pass those on to the Attorney General’s Office as well.
At the same time the Attorney General’s Office has initiated its investigations into decisions by the IEC and the ECC, in response to candidates’ complaints and, in some cases, after prompting by the President (see also yesterday’s blog). The cases against the ECC are rather specific and include the controversial disqualification of Haji Nessar Ahmad Faizi Qoryani in Herat for not resigning from his post as adviser to the provincial electricity department (of which his brother was the head). The accusations against the IEC leadership centre on allegations that it manipulated the vote during the tally process.
Candidates maintain that their votes were either not counted or removed, that their votes were intentionally disqualified without legal basis, that their ‘real’ votes were caught up in disqualified boxes where manipulation took place by other candidates, and that some of the candidates that were most involved in electoral fraud were left untouched in the quarantining process. Some accusations stem from a lack of understanding of the process, others are fabricated to save face or to try to still gain a seat. The situation is further complicated by the increasingly ethnic angle which sometimes prompts people to make outlandish claims in support of their cause. The core of the protest however continues to be fed by a genuine conviction that the election results are skewed and that the process of weeding out fraud has itself become fatally compromised.
The current interpretation of article 57.2 of the Electoral Law by the IEC and ECC provides no recourse or appeal against IEC decisions. The candidates, however, have latched on to the fact that they were not included in the disqualification decisions and that most of the audits took place without them (article 57.2 states that the IEC can “include or permanently exclude quarantine ballot boxes from the counting process after investigation by the commission, in the presence of political party agents and candidates to their satisfaction”). They hope that this is sufficient to either force recounts or to invalidate the outcome.
The situation is further complicated by the pressure that the President is putting on the electoral bodies. He is in particular said to be upset with IEC chairman Manawi, whom he accuses of ethnic and political partiality now that the results don’t look right to him. The IEC has so far maintained that it sees no way in which it can legally alter the results as they stand. In response to the criminal investigations it claims that as an independent body it can act as it sees fit and that the Attorney General has no right to interfere in its work. This illustrates how confusing the situation has become, with the Attorney General oscillating between trying to ‘fix’ the outcome of the election – as it has been instructed – and limiting itself to finding out whether actual crimes have been committed. The ECC in the meantime is being put under pressure not to announce the final results until the Attorney General has finalized its investigations, but it has stated today that it does not intend to wait.
The main problem is that there is no institution involved that has the authority and credibility to make the final call or that can mediate between the competing demands and interpretations. The ECC to some extent played that role last year, backed up by the internationals, but in its new composition and guided by the new Electoral Law it clearly did not want to repeat that experience. The President is highly frustrated, that as head of state he cannot order the rectification of what he sees as a flawed election. The Attorney General’s Office threatens to be pulled in many different directions. The meantime the call not to announce the final results under these circumstances is becoming louder, but even there it is not clear who has the final word.
(*) The list as provided by the ECC for some reason only adds up to 412. The number of candidates introduced to the Attorney General per province, from high to low, is:
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020