Thursday, April 10, 2014

Afghan elections: Ballot Shortage, Calm before Storm

By: Zabihullah Noori

More than 7 million Afghans, one third of whom women, cast their votes on April 5th presidential and provincial councils elections.
Afghans flocked to the polling station and cast their votes, despite a series of serious disruption threats from Taliban and terrorists. However, the shortage of ballot papers in several provinces disappointed many voters who went to the polling stations just to find out that they could not cast their votes.

The turnout of voters in a relatively cold and rainy day not only was a clear indication of their frustration with current corrupt government and president Karzai’s pro-Taliban policies, but also a show of enthusiasm for a change and their support for democratic process in transfer of power from one elected president to the next. This was a historic day for Afghanistan. It was the first time in the country’s history that the transition of power could take place without any coup or bloodshed.

Just days before the election the Taliban attacked several key locations including site offices and headquarter of the Independent Electoral Commission in the country’s capital Kabul, killing people and causing chaos. The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the elections in any way they could. But determination of Afghans showed that they value democracy at the cost of their lives.

Alongside the general public, April 5th 2014 proved a historic day for the Afghan National Security Forces as for the first time the ANSF acted in collaboration with each other and ensured the security of voters and polling stations without the support of international troops. 
Apart from security threats, fraud and interference of government in the Independent Electoral Commission’s affairs was another big worry that most Afghans, but specifically the runners in the race had. During the electoral campaign period different government opposition political parties and candidates accused the incumbent president and government officials for abusing power and supporting specific candidates. But president Karzai has always dismissed such accusations and emphasized on impartiality of the government and his ministers.

As seen, the transparency of this year’s election was much better than the past two elections, in part, due to huge participation of the public. But the shortage of ballots in specific parts of the country showed the incapability of the IEC in its preparation for this important day.

The IEC claims that it had dispatched 600 ballot papers for each polling center, estimating a one-minute time scale for each voter in a ten-hour day mission. But the independent observers, the journalists and the voters in these centers reported that some polling centers run out of ballot papers in the early hours of the day. According to reports polling centers in Balkh, Herat, Samangan, Badakhshan, Jawzjan and Kabul provinces run out of ballot papers as early in the day as 11am.

When asked for explanation, the IEC officials denied the claims, but insisted in prosecuting the perpetrators, if their investigation finds any staff guilty of fraud.   

The ballot shortage, not only deprived people from practicing their rights and casting their votes, but also brought the thoroughness of elections along with the independence of Electoral Commission under question.

Perhaps it might not come as surprise that the ballot shortage was mostly reported in the North and West of the country, where the frontrunners Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, the main competitors to the Dr. Zalmai Rassoul—a candidate said to be backed by the president—had large number of voters.

With President Karzai cherry picking and appointing the entire commission’s members and with reports surfacing about the ballot shortages in specific parts of the country, most people accuse the Commission for organizing a systematic fraud.

As expressed by candidates spokespersons as well as voters through social media sites, they believe that the ballot shortage in North and West was planned by the Commission to stop the frontrunners from winning in the first round and to provide president’s favorite candidate with a chance to close the gap and make it among the top two in the race.


While official results are expected in two to three weeks, the candidates’ representatives have already begun to question the issue of ballot shortage in media talk shows. The upcoming days are crucial as the observers and media will closely monitor the process and will inform the public about the Electoral Complaint Commissions’ findings. Reports of any intentional wrongdoing by the IEC staff in favor of any candidate not only can undermine the results, but can also jeopardize the whole process. The ballot shortage issue seems to be the calm before storm.


This article was first published in the Eurasiareview.com on April 9, 2014
Disclaimer:  The photo published with the article in Eurasiareview.com was chosen by the site administrator.

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