KABUL: As many as 300 cases of electoral law violations and fraud in Saturday’s parliamentary election were registered by the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA). Most of the irregularities, including voter intimidation by candidates and their agents, took place in Badakhshan, Farah, Faryab, Ghor, Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Takhar, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces, the FEFA head told a news conference in Kabul.
Nadir Nadiri said 7,000 FEFA observers had been deployed to 222 districts in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces to monitor the vote. The reports of anomalies were received from observers through emails and text messages. The irregularities were carried out by people in connections with illegal armed groups. The watchdog head added FEFA observers had been able to monitor 60 percent of the polling process. “The violators tried their best to gain extra votes through illegal means,” Nadiri alleged, asking judicial organs to prosecute the offenders. He said 276 security incidents had a direct impact on the results.
In addition, he explained ineligible people cast votes at 1,259 sites. Fake cards were allegedly used at 352 sites; multiple votes polled at 1,228 sites and ballot boxes were stuffed at 280 stations, where observers were not allowed entry into polling stations. In 28 provinces, about 157 cases of violations were recorded, according to Nadiri, who blamed powerful runners for disrupting the voting and trying to seize ballot boxes. The FEFA chief praised security officials for their efforts to prevent irregularities.
He went on to assail election workers for supporting certain candidates in Takhar, Uruzgan, Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Faryab, Herat, Kabul, Kunduz, Laghman, Nangarhar and Parwan provinces. About 1,062 polling stations lacked women staff, he pointed out, fearing the fraud could affect the final results. He said FEFA, IEC and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) would ask for fresh voting in the polling centres where rigging might affect the outcome. In a statement, FEFA urged President Hamid Karzai to empower the ECC to punish the violators and fraudsters with the help of judicial organs.
It also asked the IEC to cooperate with ECC in dealing with the complaints. The watchdog asked the international community to condemn the fraud and violations. IEC Officials say more than four million Afghans cast votes among 2,500 candidates contesting for 249 Wolesi Jirga seats. They put the turnout at 40 percent of registered voters. FEFA asked the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to cooperate with the ECC in investigating fraud and coercion and to declare the final results without full verification of legitimate votes.
Furthermore many candidates from various parts of the country allege that parliamentary election was ‘massively’ rigged and the turnout was extremely low. However, others believe efforts had been made to ensure transparency. Ex-lawmaker Noorul Uloomi, also a candidate from Kandahar province, claimed brazen irregularities had been committed in the Wolesi Jirga polls. “The extent of fraud was no less than in last year’s presidential election,” Uloomi told Pajhwok Afghan News. He alleged the irregularities were pre-planned as election officials had been bribed, fake cards distributed and commanders coerced into voting for certain candidates. Ballot boxes were stuffed in Spin Boldak, Arghistan, Panjwai and Daman districts when voting closed, he added.
Another candidate from the southern province, Farishta Afghan, linked the low turnout to widespread insecurity and fear of insurgent attacks. Another reason was that former MPs had failed to resolve people’s problems, she said. She revealed only 70 votes were cast in the Hazar Ji polling centre in the Spin Boldak district and 10 in the Loy Karez centre. But the preliminary count put the number of votes at several thousand. The ex-legislator accused the election commission of upholding the paramilitary outcome, saying she had not yet received any result.
Dr. Ghulam Jilani Humayun, another contender from Kandahar, came up with similar allegations. He said in a number of districts, influential people and warlords had stuffed ballot boxes with fake votes. He said there was a dismally low turnout and only election staff and observers were seen at some polling centres.
However, Fariba Ahmadi Kakar, a female candidate from the same province, said though the turnout was low, yet the election was fair. She said there were fraud allegations in some districts, where people had voted in massive numbers.
A candidate from northern Balkh province, Maulvi Abdur Rahman Rahmani, also claimed there had been irregularities in a number of polling centres in Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital. In some districts, voter turnout was not satisfactory due to security concerns. He alleged some candidates in the city had paid voters to support them. Citing information from observers, he said several contenders and their observers had distributed fake voter cards in women polling centres.
A Sari-i-Pul candidate, Qazi Muhammad Omar, said only two of 13 polling centres opened in the Sayad district. The election was conducted in almost all districts of the province, but some irregularities were committed by powerful candidates, he said. Massive rigging was carried out in the Sancharak, Balkhab and Kohistan districts.
Laal Muhammad Joya, a candidate from northern Faryab province, said the turnout was low. He said there was no problem of security in Maimana, the provincial capital, but still the turnout was low.
In eastern Kunar province, female candidate Gulhar thought the ballot was transparent, but there were some technical problems that hindered the voting process. She said some polling centres ran out of ballot papers, depriving many of their right to vote. But another candidate from the province, Maulvi Shahzada Shahid, said blatant anomalies had been carried out in the election process. Additionally, he added, the turnout was low due to fear of attacks on polling centres.
In women polling centres, one voter cast up to 10 votes, Shahid said, blaming election officials of accepting bribes to stuff ballot boxes. Shehnaz Himmati, a runner from western Herat province, said the election was fair in the provincial capital, Herat City. However, irregularities were alleged in districts. She disclosed some candidates had bought voters. The violations were a big question mark over the transparency of the vote.
Muhammad Rafiq Shahzad, another contender from the province, also alleged there had been fraud in districts. He assailed candidates for using unfair tactics in Rabat Sangi, Kasahak Kohna, Gulran and Shindand districts.
A candidate from eastern Laghman province, Naqeebullah Mohabat, said the vote was far from fair. His view was shared by Abdul Jabar Sholgari from southern Ghazni province, who said the participation of people in the election was discouraging. He claimed less than one percent of voters had participated in the election.
As Haji Ahmad Khan from northern Samangan province, said the ballot was free and fair, Ashiqullah, hailing from Baghlan, claimed there had been large-scale irregularities. He said that 90 percent of the votes cast in the province were bogus.
Haji Rauf, a candidate from northern Kunduz province, said 90 percent of the voting was transparent. But another candidate from the same province, Matiullah Dehati said it was a fraud-marred vote, with extremely low turnout. A candidate from eastern Nangarhar province, Syed Akram Agha, said the election was comparatively transparent in Jalalabad.
Wali Jan, coming from the southeastern Khost province, said Saturday’s vote was a success, compared to the parliamentary election of 2004. He rejected the use of fake votes as mere propaganda. Malak Muhammad Wali, a runner from Uruzgan, tied the low turnout to a lack of awareness among the people.
In southern Helmand province, Masood Noorzai insisted the vote was fraud-free. He said some candidates and their agents had tried to rig the vote, but the bid was foiled by the security personnel. Another candidate from Helmand, Nasima Niazi, said the process had been completed in peaceful manner, which resulted in a high turnout.-NNI