AAN Papers

Untangling Afghanistan’s 2010 Vote: Analysing the electoral data

This new briefing paper by Martine van Bijlert provides a backdrop to the controversies surrounding the 2010 parliamentary vote. It presents an overview of the main publicly available electoral data and maps what information has been provided, what conclusions can be drawn and what information is still missing – either because it was not shared or because it is not known.

Afghanistan’s second parliamentary election was surrounded by protracted controversy. Polling day was messy, as could be expected, but the real controversy centred on the audits and disqualifications by the two electoral bodies: the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). Although both organisations released regular updates and large amounts of raw data, there was little transparency on how and why decisions were made. The outcome of the election appears in many cases to be at best somewhat random, and at worst considerably manipulated – and telling the difference is very difficult.

The IEC and ECC interventions had far-reaching consequences. The IEC claims to have disqualified 1.2 million votes, which could represent around 20 per cent of the total. The ECC disqualified far fewer votes (probably under 300,000), but it targeted winning and almost winning candidates and changed the composition of at least 10 per cent of the parliament. The report notes that the lack of clarity on how decisions were taken fed suspicions of manipulation, while the absence of an effective appeal process made it difficult to dismiss the protracted post-election wrangling as purely political.

The author argues that this is not just about a messy election, but that the controversy illustrates a more fundamental immaturity of the system. Whereas in the past international actors often acted as de facto arbiters and enforcers, their influence and credibility has waned. The contours of a factionalised government, driven by posturing and negotiated ad hoc solutions, are becoming increasingly clear.

The full report can be downloaded here

The executive summary can be downloaded here and the press release can be found here

Date of publication: 19 February 2011.

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