The ECC has released its decisions and in doing so has laid to rest the doubts or speculations that they may bend under pressure to fudge or withhold. A scroll through the well documented findings confirms the widespread reports of fraud and provides a fascinating read of what the elections must have looked like in the places where authorities, election officials, local strongmen or independent entrepreneurs conspired to fix the outcome of the vote.
The ECC decisions come in three installments. The released audit findingsdescribe large numbers of boxes with 50%, 75% or 100% uniform markings, 100% of the ballots never folded, missing forms or stubs, forms that do not match the number of ballots, irregularities in the seal, vote totals from one candidate having been interchanged with another candidate, implausibly high numbers of ballots (over 1,000 where there should be no more than 600, or the full 600 in a female polling station), and so on. A large majority of the ballot boxes in the sample was found to be fraudulent, leading to an order to disqualify respectively 73%, 72%, 81%, 53%, 96% and 72% of the total votes in the six categories of suspicious ballot boxes (I can’t make this sound any less complicated than this without sacrificing accuracy – and I do hope this is accurate).
The ECC also ruled on the fate of the 646 boxes that had been quarantined earlier (447 by the IEC on 7 September, and 149 by the ECC on 12 September for having over 1,000 votes, or more votes than ballots issued, or for having votes at all despite the fact that the polling station had not opened on polling day). All but 18 boxes were found to be obviously fraudulent and were kept out of the count.
The ECC finally ruled on all complaints that could affect the outcome of the presidential elections. 210 polling stations were invalidated on the basis of the investigations, while in a limited number of polling stations the IEC was asked to correct the results (based on finding for instance far fewer votes in the ballot box than counted in the preliminary results, or discrepancies between the number of votes cast for certain candidates and those reflected in the results).
It is unfortunate that most voters and candidates will not have sufficient information or access to the internet to digest what has just been posted, but whoever has a list of polling station codes can in principle find what has happened to the ballot boxes from his or her village. Which is fascinating.
What this means for the election result? It means that the ECC has ruled that this election had no first round winner.
And anything beyond that is still up for discussion.
The two things to watch now are (1) what happens in the Karzai camp and (2) what happens in the talks between the Abdullah and Karzai supporters. There has been a lot of pressure on Karzai to accept the results and work from that, but early – though muted – reactions by his supporters and the organs sympathetic to him (state television, IEC) have hinted at a narrative that describes how meddling foreign powers are stealing a legitimate election victory. A rejection of the results would probably be framed in both legal and political terms: on one hand questioning the ECC’s methodology and legitimacy and on the other hand accusing the international actors of an array of conspiracies and contempt for the process. That would make everything quite complicated again and would further muddy local perceptions of what is going on.
Talks between Abdullah and Karzai supporters, which are likely to happen regardless of the mutual posturing that will take place (although posturing can be very unhelpful), will focus on whether there should be a real second round or whether a political solution can be improvised – one that does not involve putting a whole nation (and its international backers) through another round of problematic elections without having recovered from the last.
Karzai is currently consulting his supporters and will probably make a statement this afternoon. That should tell us a thing or two.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020