Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (albeit funded by both US & NATO govts) has reports of systematic fraud, the EU are more upbeat, try to be surprised. The one candidate Ramazan Bashardost, with some real credentials in representing the Afghan people against powerful and corrupt elite interests of course had no real chance in the elections run under the auspices of US/NATO, spreading democracy innit.
FEFA observed that throughout the country, many polling centers did not open on time, mainly due to factors such as last minute relocations of polling centers, last minute administrative and technical issues, and security concerns. FEFA observers reported cases of temporary and sometimes early closing of polling centers due to security incidents or disregard for established procedures by IEC field staff. Early in the day, FEFA received and shared with the IEC reports from fifteen provinces about malfunctioning punches—to mark used voter registration cards—in polling stations. IEC reacted during the morning hours with instructions to polling staff to use scissors to cut the edge of voter’s registration card. Questions about the durability of the indelible ink used to mark voters’ fingers caused concerns early in the day. Unlike the 2004 Presidential Elections, this time around there are reports that the ink reemerges after attempts to wash it off. Reports about improper interference by local IEC staff with the voting process were received throughout the day from many parts of the country. Questions about the impartiality of some IEC local staff constitute a trend that has persisted throughout the electoral process. Several anticipated patterns of fraud appear to have manifested in varying degrees. FEFA is assessing reports about these incidents.
Security Related Observations
Grenade and rocket attacks directed at polling and city centers emerged as a major form of disruption in many parts of the country. These attacks continued throughout the day. FEFA also received isolated reports of suicide bombings and gunfire in the vicinity of polling stations as well as reports of the manifestation of violent threats directed at the voters by the Taliban in several parts of the country.
Women Participation Related Observations
As had been predicted with concerns, female electoral staff appeared absent at many polling centers throughout the country. In parts of the country, FEFA observers reported incidents of male proxy voting for female voters. Fewer female polling stations opened than initially planned.
Preliminary FEFA impressions seem to indicate a lower voter turnout if compared to the 2004 Presidential Elections, in particular the female turnout. Voter turnout varied geographically within provinces and districts.
On the day before the elections, the government requested all domestic and international media to refrain from reporting on incidents of violence between 6 am and 8 pm on Election Day. Local media complied, whereas international media reported on security incidents throughout the day. Though FEFA sympathizes with the government’s argument that reports of security incidents might have discouraged people to vote, it notes that this limitation of media freedom is a violation of democratic principles.
The above general observations raise concerns about the quality of today’s elections, and about the impact of the reported incidents of violence—some gruesome. FEFA will continue to thoroughly assess field reports filed by its observers. FEFA takes this opportunity to reiterate its commitment to the transparency and fairness of the remaining phases of the 2009 elections. The electoral process is entering the critical phase of counting and verification of results. FEFA calls on key players to uphold the established rules of this process. FEFA’s final report on the 2009 Elections will be published after verified results of the elections are released.