Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

2010 Elections (40): A clear mess in the Land of the Light

Fabrizio Foschini 7 min

Since Saturday it has become possible to do some real number crunching and to get a detailed analysis of the election results, after the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) finally uploaded the polling results per polling station. For weeks, the web page displayed an ‘Internal Server Error’ message, but a phone call to a senior IEC staff member seems to have done the trick. It is now easily possible to check which votes were excluded and from which polling centres, and which have been kept in. AAN’s analyst Fabrizio Foschini has been going through the Nuristan results and the picture is revealing. Even the remaining results, that have gone through two rounds of scrutiny and disqualification show strong signs of fraud, suggesting that the election there was probably fraudulent in its totality.

In Nuristan there were several accusations by and against the main electoral officials. Three weeks before the elections, the head of the provincial IEC resigned, denouncing the preparations for fraud made by the local administration and police (the provincial governor and police commander, however, claim that he was fired after complaints against him were received). He was replaced by a local from Waygal, against this year’s regulation of appointing non-local provincial IEC heads, who was subsequently himself accused of carrying out fraud.

At the end of November, ten days after the announcement of the final results, the head of the ECC secretariat in Nuristan resigned too, saying the commission had failed to implement the decisions necessary to eliminate fraudulent votes.  He said it was his moral duty to give up his post.

ECC spokesman and commissioner, Ahmad Zia Rafat, when asked about the case, dismissed it as a bunch of lies. According to him, the ECC official had himself been found out as having been involved in irregularities, and he was merely trying to turn the tables against his accusers, now that the ECC was coming under pressure by the Attorney General. It was very sad, he said, that such allegations were being mounted against ECC’s work in Nuristan, which in his words had been an ‘extremely transparent process’.  It was in order to bear witness to the ECC’s transparency that I decided to first check Nuristan, using the newly available data which gives a breakdown, by polling station, of the valid votes.

Firstly, it must be remarked that it is a wonder that elections were held in Nuristan at all.  So cut off is Nuristan from the rest of the country that the delivery of the electoral material was uncertain until the very eve of the elections (in the end two districts, Mandol and Duab, did not receive any electoral material at all, while in other districts the delivery was very late). Then, during the weeks after the elections, partial results were released for every province – except Nuristan.  For over a month, nothing at all was heard from Nuristan. Then finally the province was reincluded in the electoral process: first preliminary and then final results were posted, accompanied by a wave of complaints and protests – by now almost a familiar part of any electoral process in Afghanistan.  So what do the figures tell us about what happened there?

Once the preliminary results were released, 32 out of the planned 47 polling centres were reported to have opened (for a total of 99 polling stations).  PCs were opened in five of the eight districts; no election took place in Kamdesh, Duab and Mandol districts, and in Barg-e Matal only the two most central polling centres were opened; one turned into a monster PC with an abnormally high number of polling stations (PS) – eight.

Accounts of election day started to leak out from the secluded mountains of Nuristan and they consisted mainly of stories of blatant ballot stuffing.  In at least two districts (Waygal and Barg-e Matal), this happened the day after the elections because the boxes and ballots were not delivered until late afternoon on 18 September. There were local jirgas of elders issuing declarations that they had not even been aware that the electoral material had arrived in their areas and denouncing the counted results from these centres. These accounts are backed up by the state of the result sheets (the scanned copies of which have been uploaded here), most of which are not duly compiled and contain many errors(*). This was probably the main reason for the delay at the intake centre of the IEC in Kabul in processing the boxes and forms from Nuristan – many of which were returned without seals or the necessary signatures of candidates’ agents and electoral staff (according to one IEC employee, the intake and tally centre had to work until dawn on the eve of the preliminary results to complete the Nuristan count).

IEC ended up disqualifying 44 out of the 99 polling stations that had been reported as open, which is over 44%. The ECC then invalidated an additional 40% of the remaining vote (of the almost 24,000 votes in the preliminary results, in the end only 14,449 were left). However, a look at the surviving results shows many serious inconsistencies in the commission’s decisions.

Among the most prominent decisions made by the ECC on Nuristan is the invalidation of all votes from Waygal district. It was first mentioned in decision A-10-13-3054 and then confirmed by many successive decisions. The ECC investigation found that boxes had not been delivered to the polling centres, but rather had been brought ‘to the mountains’ or to somebody’s house and filled there (decisions A-10-13-3054; 3070; 3079; 3097). However, inexplicably, for they have not been appellate, these decisions were not put into practice and most of Waygal’s votes were still counted as valid in the final results (four of the six polling centres still feature in the results per polling station). A very substantial amount of the vote in the final count comes from this district: 4,674, which is one third of the final valid vote.(**)

This may, or may not, have had something to do with the fact that one of the winning candidates had worked in the administration of Waygal district until just before the election. He moreover was said to have enjoyed the support of the head of the Nuristan IEC, who was himself from Waygal. Although this candidate saw about one-third of his votes invalidated, his main rival, who was leading the preliminary results – and who is now organizing protest rallies in Poruns – lost two-thirds, along with his parliamentary seat.

The results seem to confirm the allegations that the ECC and/or IEC intentionally favoured one candidate over another.  The winning male candidate in Kamgeel, for example, was allowed to retain 231 votes out of a total of 529 in the female PS (1305043), while not receiving a single vote in the male PS (where only 338 votes were cast). Or getting back to the monster-PC of Barg-e Matal (1308066), the other winning Nuristani candidate got 941 of her votes here in highly suspicious batches (101, 100, 200, 300, 240). The ECC excluded some other candidates’ votes from this PC, but did not touch hers at all.

In general the remaining polling stations reported a large number of results that look like they should have been excluded too. Out of 35 PSs left in the final count, 13 display an amount of votes extremely close to 600, and strange voting patterns occurred. In Waygal (1304028), a deal to share votes seems to have taken place, with a remarkably consistent pattern of 100 votes (give or take a couple either way) being given to the same four candidates in every station (a pattern broken only by Parwen Nuristani getting 200 votes in the female PS).

These suspicious phenomena have not been addressed systematically in Nuristan. The invalidation of votes there resembles more a selection than a coherent attempt at eliminating all the fraud committed. In Aligal (1304037) for instance PS2 was disqualified, while an almost identical voting pattern in the remaining polling stations was allowed. In Jamamish (1304038), Rita Ali and Parween Nuristani retained their perfect shares (100 votes each in PS2 and PS3), while in PS1, only, was it invalidated.

In Shama (1302015) high number of votes and suspicious distribution of them were left untouched: 598, 596 and 598 votes cast in the three PSs; the two winning candidates scooping up most of the votes in each PS (300, 229 and 320 for Parwen Nuristani and 220, 298 and 86 for Ahmadullah Muhed). Another candidate, Nurullah Mahmar, was allowed to keep his 143 female votes even though he only got 24 in the two male PSs, while the local candidate, Abdul Raqib Mushtaq, was ‘given’ 50, 30 and 25 votes, probably to save his honour or because of the probable presence of his agents on the scene.

AAN has listened to phone calls full of complaints, has received e-mails of protest, and has seen videos and pictures of protesters. But the question remains: how many of the candidates – both winning and losing – can claim to have received real votes? The ECC itself has introduced 14 out of the 19 candidates to the Attorney General for investigation into suspected fraud. So what are the losing candidates from Nuristan complaining about, the fraud committed or the unbalanced invalidation of it?

The only conclusion is that – like last year – there was barely a real vote in Nuristan. The province is seriously ‘under-manned’ by the Afghan security forces and completely deserted by the foreigners. As a result the election was controlled by local armed groups with precise political interests, which coincided with the economic appetites of the electoral staff. The often random or unequal disqualifications by the IEC and ECC have done very little to address that.

It may well be that the security conditions did not allow either the holding or monitoring of a transparent election and that the fraud was too multilateral and generalized to be stamped out without cancelling the vote of the whole province. But to describe it as ‘an extremely transparent process’… the data speaks for itself.

(*) Errors tainted even the uploading of scan copies of the result sheets on the IEC website: those for Wadaho (1302012) in Nurgram district turned out to be random results from Wardak province. Polling station 3 from this centre was incidentally excluded by the IEC, then readmitted into the system, only to be invalidated later by the ECC, who motivated its action by pointing to the occurrence of 92 votes with an identical tick mark cast for Parwin Nuristani (decision A-10-13-3001).

(**)  On a smaller scale something similar happened in Kosht (1301009), where PS2 was included in the count – where one of the candidates received the unlikely round number of 400 votes –notwithstanding the ECC decision (A-10-13-3129) that all votes in the polling centre should be invalidated (a decision that was appellate by the candidate and confirmed by the ECC).


2010 Elections Corruption Democratization Elections Electoral fraud Government


Fabrizio Foschini

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