AAN Papers

Who Controls the Vote? Afghanistan’s Evolving Elections


AAN’s latest report, by Martine van Bijlert, provides the first in-depth analysis of the 2009 provincial council elections and presents important clues on what the parliamentary vote on 18 September will look like. It argues that, contrary to what some internationals hope, the upcoming vote will again be messy, fiercely contested and manipulated at all levels.

The report particularly focuses on nine provincial case studies, demonstrating how the study of election data can uncover what happened during the electoral process. It finds evidence of massive ballot-stuffing, tally fraud and – as described for the first time – manipulation of the final results at the tally centre. The findings of the report suggest that this year candidates and local IEC staff will revert to the same tactics again, especially in insecure areas and where the contest is fierce.

The case studies starkly illustrate how difficult it is to reconstruct what the real vote would have been, once fraud has occurred. Fraud prevention has however also proven almost impossible, given the massive loss of control suffered by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) during the whole process. This year the IEC under new leadership has tried to limit the amount of confusion and ambiguity in the run-up to the elections, but it remains to seen how it will perform under pressure and once the system collapses.

One of the main lessons of the report is that observer missions and the media stop paying attention too soon, as the manipulation takes place until the very end. The author, finally, argues that the expection that fraud will take place should not stop observers from speaking out against it. It is the silence, or late and muted reactions, of internationals in the face of gross irregularities, that has often most confused Afghans.

The full report can be downloaded here

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

See also last year’s pre-election report: “How to Win an Afghan Election”.

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