Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Political Landscape

Elections 2014 (44): Key documents underwriting the electoral agreement

Martine van Bijlert 17 min

To provide background to the recent agreement between the two presidential candidates brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry (see here and here), AAN has gathered the texts of relevant statements in one place. These include, first and foremost, the joint declaration agreed and signed by both candidates on 8 August 2014, as well as a series of UNAMA and IEC press statements in the period preceding the 8 August press conference, which document the rocky road of the electoral audit. Some of the statements are followed by a brief commentary.

The documents included in this dispatch are:

  • the “Joint Declaration of the Electoral Teams regarding the Lawful Finalisation of the Second Round of the Presidential Elections of 1393 and the Formation of a Government of National Unity,” dated 8 August 2014 (annex 1);
  • UNAMA press statement on its proposal for recount and invalidation, dated 24 July 2014 (annex 2);
  • UNAMA press statement indicating candidates’ support for the adoption of the UN’s proposal by the IEC, dated 26 July 2014 (annex 3);
  • IEC statement announcing the adoption of the recount and invalidation criteria, dated 30 July 2014 (annex 4);
  • UNAMA press statement welcoming the adoption of the IEC criteria, dated 30 July 2014 (annex 5);
  • op-ed by US State Secretary John Kerry on the website of Afghan news outlet Tolo News, dated 30 July 2014 (annex 6);
  • UNAMA statement clarifying its proposal on the audit criteria, dated 3 August (annex 7).

An earlier AAN dispatch with relevant electoral documents included correspondence between the Abdullah team and the IEC in late June 2014, as well as transcripts of the recordings that were released by the Abdullah camp at the time.


ANNEX 1. Joint declaration of the electoral teams (8 August 2014)

In the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate

Joint Declaration of the Electoral Teams regarding the Lawful Finalization of the Second Round of the Presidential Elections of 1393 and the Formation of a Government of National Unity

Kabul, 17 Asad, 1393 [8 August 2014]

There is no doubt that our beloved country is in one of the most politically sensitive periods of its history. Coming through this sensitive period successfully requires a strong and legitimate government organized on the basis of political consensus and a strong collective determination.

As a result of a shared understanding of the sensitivity of the current situation, the general belief of the political stratum of our society is that there is a need to build a broad national consensus to carry out political reforms and to create the fundamental transformation in a time of change. As centers of focus of the will of a clear majority of the nation, the campaign teams from the second round of the elections are performing their moral and national duty in the formation of a national unity government.

With a joint belief in the above-mentioned points and the vital necessity of national cooperation, we, the signers of this document, representing the campaign teams, have decided to present the following points [as joint decisions] to the noble nation of Afghanistan:

1) Recognition and respect for the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and complying with the framework of its provisions and rules will be considered the cornerstone of all measures and reforms now and in the future. In the same manner, the preservation of the achievements of the jihad and resistance of the people of Afghanistan and the dynamic democratic experience of the past thirteen years will be a guiding principle in the realization of a national reform program.

2) The two parties remain bound and committed to the entirety of the political framework agreed to on the 21st of Saratan 1393 (July 12, 2014) (reference attached), including: the formation of a government of national unity; the immediate establishment by Presidential decree of the position of Government CEO; convening within two years a Loya Jirga to consider establishing the position of an Executive Prime Minister; the appointment of senior officials according to agreed principles and merit; and reforms, including of the electoral system. Agreement on the political framework was reached with support from the international partners of our country as the basis of the political agreement based on the constitution of Afghanistan in order to support the implementation of the reform and transformation program, and they [we] are committed to translating the substance of the political framework into a detailed and enduring [written] agreement and sign it as soon as possible. Additionally, we recognize as our main priorities cooperation for implementing the technical affairs of the agreement and defining a single national program for reform and formation of the national unity government.

3) Just as in the case of the technical track, where the two sides established working teams to practically move the audit process forward based on the United Nations criteria including audit, recount, and invalidation to ensure transparency and restore credibility to the process, by continuously working within the audit process and accepting its outcome, the two parties affirm they are committed to sincerely cooperate on the political track as well. With this aim in mind, the two parties [will] assign a joint commission comprised of members of both teams to finalize a timeline for the electoral process, agree on the date for the inauguration of the new president, with the goal of doing so by the second week of Sunbola 1393 (end of August), and draw up the detailed text of the political agreement in light of the constitution and the political framework agreement reached on 21st of Saratan 1393 (July 12, 2014).

May God Give us Success,

Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah

[Unofficial translation, as sent to the media by the US State Department]


Political Framework Agreed on July 12, 2014 [annex to the 8 August statement]

Pursuant to the results of the credible and comprehensive election audit described in Part One, the candidates commit to implement a political agreement whereby the winner of the election will serve as President and will immediately form a government of national unity with the following characteristics:

1. The government of national unity will develop and implement a comprehensive program of reform to empower the Afghan people and address the need for peace, stability, security, rule of law, justice, economic growth, and delivery of services.

2. The President will convene a Loya Jirga, and initiate a process of amending the constitution, to establish the position of an Executive Prime Minister within two years.

3. Until such time as the position of Executive Prime Minister is constitutionally established, the functions of an Executive Prime Minister will be performed by a Government Chief Executive Officer. This position of Government CEO will be immediately established by Presidential decree, and will be held by a nominee of the runner-up and mutually agreed by the President.

4. The President will create the position of Leader of the Opposition. The runner-up will select the person of his choice to fill this position.

5. Appointments to the key national security, economic, and independent government agencies will be apportioned according to the principle of achieving parity between the choices of the President and the Leader of the Opposition. Cabinet, judiciary, and key sub-national appointments will be apportioned according to the principle of fair representation, chosen by the President in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

6. The President commits to maintain continuity of the leadership in key national security agencies for at least 90 days.

7. The unity government commits to adopt within one year fundamental reforms of the electoral system, developed by a broadly representational process, with a goal of remedying prior electoral shortcomings.

Background to the Joint declaration of 8 August 2014:

The document was signed and alluded to in a joint press conference by US State Secretary John Kerry and the two candidates, and signatories, of the declaration, but it was not formally released, nor were it’s contents explained in any detail (see here ). The text was later emailed to journalists by the US State Department and posted on social media by members of the candidate teams, but the exact status of the text remains unclear. It is worth noting that only the 8 August declaration was signed, while the more detailed agreement of 12 July was attached as an annex. At the time of posting of this dispatch the candidates had not yet finalised their nominees for the joint commission (later that morning, however the commission met for the first time).


ANNEX 2. UNAMA press statement on the proposed invalidation criteria, 24 July 2014

PRESS STATEMENT: United Nations proposes criteria for ordering recounts and invalidations

KABUL, 24 July 2014 – The United Nations (UN) today presented its proposal to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) for a regulatory decision covering criteria for ordering the recount of ballot boxes and the invalidation of ballots as part of the ongoing comprehensive audit of the results of the Presidential election run-off held on 15 June.

The Director of the UN’s Electoral Assistance Division, Craig Jenness, delivered the proposal to the IEC Chairman, Dr. Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, earlier this afternoon.

Under the technical agreement reached by the two Presidential candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani, the UN was asked to propose the manner for the supervision of the audit. In making its proposals, the agreement requires the UN to consult with both candidates.

As part of the technical agreement, the entirety of the approximately 23,000 ballot boxes of the run-off are to be audited in Kabul in the presence of international and domestic observers, candidate agents, the media and UN advisors.

In the first part of the audit, there is a physical inspection of each ballot box in the IEC auditing warehouses in Kabul. Using a 16-point checklist set out in the technical agreement, IEC audit teams are recording information as to the physical condition of each box, the state of its results form, whether ballot papers in the box were marked according to procedure or show significant patterns of obviously similar markings, and relevant information from the polling station journal and polling station voter log. No decisions as to the inclusion or exclusion of votes are made during this stage of information gathering, which has been ongoing since 17 July.

The second part of the audit involves open meetings of the IEC Board of Commissioners where decisions are made to accept, recount or invalidate results based upon reports generated from the information gathered during the physical audit.

As per the technical agreement, these Commission meetings will be conducted in the presence of international and domestic observers, candidate agents, the media and a UN advisor. Following the IEC board’s decisions, the results of the associated polling stations will be processed at the National Tally Centre. Under Afghan law, the Presidential campaigns retain the right to appeal these decisions to the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) within 24 hours and the IECC is required to provide a ruling on these appeals within a further 48 hours.

In order to provide a tangible expression of support to the technical agreement, the two Presidential candidates supported the start of the physical stage of the audit on 17 July. At this time it was also agreed that IEC Board meetings to decide on the acceptance, recount or invalidation of results would not take place until a regulatory decision setting out recount and invalidation criteria was formally adopted.

From a legal standpoint, the current audit is being conducted under Article 58 of Afghanistan’s Electoral Law, which allows for the investigation of “justifiable complaints of or visible signs of fraud in the ballot boxes.” Election fraud is a very serious infringement of democratic values, strictly forbidden by Afghan laws. Every effort is required to excise electoral fraud from the political system, not just for the purposes of the present audit but for the sake of future elections. At the same time, the foundation of democracy is the equal right of each citizen to choose their leaders through the ballot. Every effort is also required to preserve the sanctity of legitimate ballots, especially given the real risks that many Afghans took in casting their ballots. This is a difficult balance in any country, and more so in Afghanistan’s current context which includes challenges related to security, low levels of literacy and a history of troubled elections.

The current UN proposal regarding recounts and invalidations attempts to strike the proper balance between these two considerations and follows the Afghan Constitution and legal framework. It was developed after extensive consultations with both Presidential campaigns.

The UN was ultimately not able to obtain agreement of both or either candidate to a common text that was agreeable to the other candidate. It has therefore proposed a text which addresses the legitimate points raised during the consultations while meeting the best international standards and factoring in the unique context of Afghanistan.

Given the urgency of the matter, the United Nations has now encouraged the IEC Board to rapidly meet and adopt the necessary regulatory decisions based on this proposal so that the next stage of the audit can commence.

Background to the 24 July 2014 UNAMA press statement:

The agreement to engage in a full audit of all second round votes was brokered on 12 July 2014 by US State Secretary John Kerry. Three days later the IEC adopted criteria for the audit checklist,  based on the inconclusive discussions that had preceded the announcement of the contested preliminary results on 7 July 2014 (more details here). The invalidation criteria, however, were still pending when the audit started on 17 July and no progress was made in the week that followed. The audit, in the meantime, proceeded in fits and starts: after the symbolic start on 17 July – 30 audit teams all reviewed one box each – the audit was already suspended on the second working day on 20 July and then again on 22 July. On 24 July 2014 the UN stepped in with its proposal. For more details see here  and here.


ANNEX 3. UNAMA press statement on candidates’ support for the proposal, 26 July 2014

PRESS STATEMENT: Presidential candidates support IEC adopting UN proposal

KABUL, 26 July 2014 – Afghanistan’s two Presidential candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani, have indicated to the United Nations that they support the Independent Election Commission (IEC) adopting the UN proposal for a regulatory decision covering criteria for recounts and invalidations of ballots as part of the ongoing comprehensive audit of the country’s Presidential election run-off.

The United Nations had presented its proposal to the IEC on 24 July in the context of the technical agreement reached by the two Presidential candidates, which asked the UN to propose the manner for the supervision of the audit.

Both candidates indicated to the United Nations that they had their own respective concerns with the proposal, but were prepared to proceed with it as a good faith effort based on international best practice to bridge their positions.

Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani expressed their shared view that it was in the national interest to finalise the regulatory framework of the audit.

The United Nations welcomes the statesmanship shown by the candidates in coming to this difficult decision as well as the sincere engagement by their technical teams in the preparation of the UN proposal. Based on this support from the two parties and recognising the legal mandate of the IEC, the UN now encourages the IEC Board to rapidly meet and adopt the necessary regulatory decisions so that the next stage of the audit can commence.

Background to the 26 July 2014 UNAMA press statement:

The UN, in its proposal, had sought to address the demands and concerns of both candidates’ teams, based on the discussions with both sides, while seeking not to alienate an IEC already tetchy over what in many ways was seen as an international take-over. This carefully worded statement was thus meant as a nudge to the IEC to accept and adopt the proposal, while it overstated (at least in its headline) the level of buy-in by the candidates – as would become clear later. On 26 July, the IEC suspended the audit until after the Eid holidays.


ANNEX 4. IEC press statement on adoption of the invalidation criteria, 30 July 2014

IEC Adopts Recount and Invalidation Criteria for Afghan Presidential Election

Kabul, Afghanistan, 30 July 2014 – The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has formally adopted criteria for the recount and invalidation of ballots, as part of its 100% audit of the run-off round of voting for the Presidential election.

The adoption of the criteria is consistent with the laws of Afghanistan and the mandate of the IEC. The criteria are based on a proposal of the United Nations, finalized after extensive consultations with the campaign teams of both presidential candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

The IEC’s adoption of recount and invalidation criteria completes the regulatory framework for the audit and provides clarity, transparency, and consistency to this crucial process in which all ballot boxes from the run-off round of voting, held on June 14, will be physically audited at the IEC’s headquarters in Kabul.

The audit will resume on Saturday (2 August) morning following a break for the Eid al-Fitr national holiday.

For more information, contact the IEC External Relations Department at: 
(M) 7 835 55 355 / (E) [email protected]

Background to the three statements on 30 July 2014 (IEC, UNAMA and Kerry op-ed):

On 26 July 2014 the IEC suspended the audit until after the Eid holidays (which started on 28 July). On the third day of Eid, a day before the audit was originally set to restart, the IEC announced the adoption of the invalidation criteria and indicated that the audit would now restart on 2 August 2014. According to the IEC, the criteria had been “finalised after extensive consultations with the campaign teams of both presidential candidates.” The UN welcomed the IEC move (annex 5) and stated that with the adoption of the criteria “the regulatory framework for the Presidential audit is now complete.” The Abdullah camp however continued to express reservationsOn the same day, Tolo News posted an op-ed by John Kerry in which he sought to clarify the substance of the political agreement, amidst confusion and disagreement over what had been agreed (annex 6).


ANNEX 5. UNAMA press statement, welcoming IEC adoption of the criteria, 30 July 2014

PRESS STATEMENT: UNAMA welcomes IEC’s adoption of criteria for invalidation and recount of ballots

KABUL, 30 July 2014 – The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) welcomes the Independent Election Commission’s (IEC) decision to adopt criteria for the invalidation and recount of ballots as part of the ongoing comprehensive audit of the results of the Presidential election run-off held on 14 June.

The IEC decision is based on a UN proposal founded upon international best practice. Under the technical agreement reached by the two Presidential candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani, on 12 July, the UN was asked to propose the manner for the international supervision of the audit, which it did after thorough and extensive consultations with both Presidential campaigns. The IEC decision has the full backing of the international community.

“This decision will ensure that the audit process will lead to the invalidation of fraudulent ballots while all valid votes will be counted, thus honouring the courage and determination of the Afghans who voted in both rounds of the Presidential election,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš, who met with the IEC Board of Commissioners earlier today.

“The IEC’s adoption of the criteria means that the regulatory framework for the Presidential audit is now complete,” added Mr. Kubiš. “It will help minimise the points of friction encountered in the audit so far. I encourage both campaigns to continue demonstrating the political will necessary to proceed expeditiously with the audit, without any interruption.”

Noting the urgent situation facing Afghanistan once auditing does resume on Saturday, following the Eid break, the Special Representative looks forward to the candidate teams continuing their participation in the audit process and focusing on large-scale irregularities rather than contesting individual ballots.


ANNEX 6. Text of op-ed for Tolo News by US Secretary of State John Kerry, 30 July 2014

Op-Ed from State Secretary Kerry

Wednesday, 30 July 2014. Written by John Kerry

Again and again, through all my visits to your country, I’ve been struck by one profound fact: Afghans want and deserve a better future. You want to live without fear, to have the best possible education for your children, health care systems that provide dignity and the jobs and other opportunities that come with a stable economy.

Something else has been clear to me: Democracy is the path Afghans have chosen to achieve that better life.

For more than a decade, President Hamid Karzai has led Afghanistan through triumph and tragedy. I’ve worked closely with him, and I know that one of his lasting legacies will be how Afghanistan makes its first democratic, peaceful transfer of power.

Afghans took an enormous step on the road toward a stronger democracy in April and June when millions of people went to the polls to choose the country’s next president. Every vote was a courageous endorsement of democracy, and an expression of hope for the future.

The United States knows from our own history the road to democracy is bumpy and the journey is not completed overnight. Democracy requires building credible institutions, overcoming divisions, building trust and working together for a brighter future.

Today, Afghanistan and its two presidential candidates face one of those bumps in the road — a moment of decision. Their ability to overcome the obstacles and work together to honor the votes of millions of their citizens will determine the future of Afghanistan and its relationship with the international community.

The United States, the United Nations and the international community are engaged in the post-election process solely to help the Afghan election institutions restore credibility to the voting. Experts tell me that the audit under way in Kabul is the largest and most complicated election audit ever undertaken anywhere.

Few countries could meet this challenge alone.

Specialists from the UN are working side by side with their Afghan colleagues to ensure that the audit meets the laws of Afghanistan, the highest international standards and, most importantly, the expectations of Afghans. The process, which has been painstaking and slow, will accelerate with the end of Eid al-Fitr. But democracy can’t be rushed and every legitimate vote deserves to be counted and respected. The Afghan Independent Election Commission, the UN and dozens of international observers are working night and day to conclude the audit.

The audit is only one part of the challenge confronting democracy in Afghanistan today. Equally important are the actions of the two candidates, Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, and their political teams.

On July 12, the two candidates shook hands and agreed to respect the results of the audit. They also agreed to build a unity government that will lead Afghanistan to a better future. The political agreement responds to a challenging situation that requires cooperation between the two leaders and their broad range of supporters.

In reaching the agreement, Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani showed incredible statesmanship. In any democracy, it’s very hard after an intense campaign as a presidential candidate to come to that moment where you must put your own aspirations and those of your supporters second to the greater long-term interests of your country. Both candidates managed to overcome their reservations and those of their backers. They set aside political interests in favor of the national interest. They exhibited the statesmanship we expect from great leaders.

Their challenge now is to translate that agreement into a strong working relationship in the new government, whoever wins. The time for politics is over. The time for cooperation is at hand. There is no time to waste, and I encourage both teams to work cooperatively on the critical issues facing their country even as the audit continues.

It’s not for outsiders to describe the contents of the political framework both candidates accepted a few days ago. But I was there in the room, and I can tell you what is not in that one-page document.

It does not violate the Afghan constitution – it respects Afghan institutions and the role of the president as the head of government. It does not establish a parliamentary system – it creates a new position of chief executive who will report to the president until the president convenes a loya jirga to determine whether a permanent change is in the best interests of the country.

What the agreement does provide is a critical opportunity for both candidates to move beyond political competition to real statesmanship. It is a chance for them to work together to build an inclusive government that represents all sectors of Afghan society – Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, men and women.

Yes, democracy is an evolutionary process. It isn’t easy. But every democracy reaches a decisive moment where the interests of the country must outweigh the interests of politicians. Afghanistan is at that critical point today. Its leaders cannot afford to miss the chance to help bring their people the better lives they deserve and demand. And that is a challenge for two statesmen who both love Afghanistan.

(U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brokered an agreement between Afghan presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani-Ahmadzai on July 12 that would audit all eight million votes cast in the runoff presidential election.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed are those of its author and not representative of TOLOnews)


ANNEX 7. UNAMA press statement indicating flexibility towards the invalidation criteria, 3 August 2014

PRESS STATEMENT: UN clarifies proposal on audit process

KABUL, 3 August 2014 – At the request of Presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the United Nations yesterday met with him and the technical experts of the Reform and Partnership Team.

They discussed the UN proposal for recounts and invalidations as part of the ongoing comprehensive audit of the Presidential elections run-off.

The parties confirmed the following:

1.) The agreement on items 12 and 16 of the audit checklist included in the 12 July Technical Framework Agreement is reconfirmed and will be fully implemented during the audit process.

2.) The process of adjudication on the findings of the audit will not begin before the end of the week, after technical preparations and data entry of information collected from the audit is undertaken. Campaign agents and observers will be provided access to these preparatory steps. Further clarifications of invalidation criteria will be made during the course of preparatory process, as needed, before the invalidation process commences. The relevant proposals, including of the Reform and Partnership Team, will be taken into consideration. In case new issues that require attention will arise during the course of conducting the audit, the UN will consider whether the relevant procedures and criteria require refinement and updating. The senior UN international elections expert, Jeff Fischer, who directly advises the Board of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on international best practices as it makes decisions to validate, invalidate or recount ballots cast in the presidential election run-off has the discretion to apply special scrutiny to any boxes he deems warranted.

3.) The UN proposal will not allow ballots from ‘ghost’ polling centres and stations to enter the electoral system.

4.) In cases that ballot boxes are lost, missing, damaged or destroyed an investigation of all relevant information will be conducted including on the basis but not limited to IEC documents. If these investigations reveal no valid proof that a missing ballot box served as an active polling station it will be excluded.

5.) International experts will be fully involved in the entire audit process and in addition to offering advice will take part in the adjudication process.

The Reform and Partnership Team has informed the United Nations that it will attend the Audit Technical Committee meeting tonight and will resume its participation in the audit process tomorrow.

Background to the 3 August 2014 UNAMA statement:

After an extended break for the Eid holiday, during which the IEC adopted the invalidation criteria as proposed by UNAMA (see annex 4), the audit was scheduled to restart on 2 August. This was postponed for a day when the observers from the Abdullah camp did not show up, to signal their protest against the criteria that they believed did not sufficiently take their demands and concerns into account. John Kerry spoke on the phone with both candidates and was said to have secured assurances from Abdullah that he was not abandoning the process. Abdullah and his technical team that evening also met with UNAMA to further discuss the criteria. On the next day, the audit was again delayed, then suspended, after which it unexpectedly was restarted anyway, in the afternoon, without the Abdullah observers. IEC chair Yusuf Nuristani announced that there would be no further delays and that the process would now continue, with or without the presence of both candidate teams. When later that afternoon Abdullah’s team released another recording alleging the implication of government officials in fraud (this time Vice President Karim Khalili) it looked like another crisis was brewing. 

However, when the UN released the above statement, indicating that the criteria would be reopened for discussion, the crisis seemed to be averted. In response to the assurances, Abdullah’s camp announced they would return to the process on the condition that in the coming days their demands would be taken into account.

The statement alludes to some of Abdullah’s concerns, including the reference to “ghost polling stations” and the possible need for “special scrutiny” (for instance in areas where the turnout increased exponentially between the first and the second round). The statement also leaves room for “clarifications” and “updating and refining” – respectively “during the course of the preparation process” before the start of the invalidations and “in case new issues [arise] that require attention.” 

The invalidation criteria have, incidentally, still not been finalised and the discussions with the Abdullah camp were, at the time of posting, still ongoing (see for instance here).  



2014 Elections IEC UNAMA US


Martine van Bijlert

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