The turnout on Saturday’s parliamentary elections, held for second time in Afghanistan’s history, was positive with 40 percent. Despite all out attempts by Taliban to disrupt the entire process, millions of Afghans defied security threats and flocked to polling centers from early morning. More than 3.6 million votes are cast at 4632 polling centers. ISAF has reported about 400 incidents of violence across the country, which is less than that in last year’s Presidential elections. Insurgents intensified attacks during the weeks before polling day. They kidnapped candidates, killed supporters and bombed even a mosque—in Khost—to disrupt the campaign process. Workers of Election Commission were killed. Many candidates received threats, while attempts were made to stop people from taking part in the process. But masses came out, voted and it was quite successful, in a country like Afghanistan. Taliban attacked polling stations and voters, but the turnout remained more intense during all the day. There were total 3,642,444 votes cast at 4,632 polling centers making a 40 percent turnout. The insurgents also killed over a dozen civilians, just a week after Mullah Omer in his latest statement had called Taliban to avoid civilian casualties. It was the intense participation of people that lack of ballot papers were reported from all across the country, though speaking of Afghanistan Independent Election Commission’s poor management.
After last year’s Presidential elections, IEC is wholly managing this parliamentary elections too. There were many stories of weak management of the Commission. For instance, most common problems and complaints from voters were about lack of ballot papers. This is a recurrent issue, which was a major problem in previous elections. But the IEC was failed to manage it. Officials of IEC stationed at the polling centers were not able to manage further ballot papers, making the voters wait for hours. Its not understandable why such problems occur when all the polling centers, number of voters and everything related is known. Many doubt it was intentional. Less ballot papers were sent in certain areas to affect voting. Another issue was that the ink being used for fingers to identify that a voter has voted, could be washed away easily. I heard many people talking about this. A friend of mine who voted in a polling station of Kabul said, he could easily remove the ink, after some times of wash. But IEC in the press conference at the end of polling denied this saying they don’t have ‘evidence’.
How transparent and fair this election would happen to be, is something that will be echoed by the announcement of results. But there were intentional attempts of fraudulent. By intentional, I mean political attempts by the Karzai Administration. For instance, just a week before the polling day, many polling centers in most peaceful parts of the country were canceled due to concern for ‘security threats’. There were reports about this on media too, but nothing was done to make it undone! Fake ballot papers moving around in thousands was another story of the week before polling day. National Directorate of Security, the Afghan intelligence, had arrested a person from Ghazni with over 3000 fake voting cards. The fake ballot papers, as it happened previous time during the Presidential elections, were printed in thousands in Peshawar city of Pakistan. The IEC and other concerned quarters were failed to stop fake ballot papers coming into the country, and going to special constituencies.
The list of candidates was being reduced every day. Many candidates were rejected during all the process until the campaign time ended. The given justification by IEC is not enough.
Though officials said about 92 percent of all the polling stations were open and rest in insecure areas remained close, but there were some political attempts in this process. Such attempts were for pre-polling day. For instance, polling centers in some peaceful parts of the country were canceled by IEC concerning ‘security’.
But most important of all is the process from today. Results’ announcement will take weeks. Amid all the chaos and atmosphere of blame game and doubts, many common Afghans doubt the transparency of counting process. Transparency and ‘safety’ of ballot boxes are common concerns. Even many people are doubtful of the process the digital lists of results are made and kept on the computers of IEC. There must be heavy monitoring of the post-polling process.
And now those who will challenge any fraud will have no confidence in the panel appointed by Karzai replacing the Electoral Complaints Commission, which investigated and found out the rigging in Presidential elections.
There was less interest from the international community in this parliamentary election, compared to last year’s Presidential or the previous parliamentary elections. There were not many monitoring organizations. Nor has the UN been reflecting the concerns of common Afghans. There is a perspective among a considerable number of Afghans that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is working in line with the wishes of President Karzai, therefore no interest was shown to prevent fraudulent attempts in this elections, leaving everything to Karzai’s appointed panel, and the Election Commission.
Overall, with the high turnout it was positive. We have to remember that Afghanistan is having the second parliamentary elections of our history. An election of western standard in a country ravaged with three decades of wars and conflicts should not be expected.