Being a fate-deciding exercise for Afghanistan, the election process has been unfortunately mired in controversy so far. Already behind schedule by weeks in terms of results, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) first began the much-awaited, yet disputed, vote recount on November 9 amid staunch bickering from some candidates regarding ‘shady and rigged’ votes. However, it wasn’t long before the process was halted in order to cater to the wants of the unsatisfied contenders and also on the grounds that CEO Abdullah Abdullah didn’t allow it to go ahead in several provinces. However, after a three days’ stop, the election commission on Sunday announced to resume the ballot recount. Nonetheless, discontented presidential candidate Abdullah once again halted the attempt by saying he won’t let his observers participate. It’s something problematic because the Afghan election laws call for representatives of all presidential candidates to observe ballot counting and stipulates that they should be present.
Meanwhile, the Council of Presidential Candidates has also announced their boycott with the partial recount process, citing “lack of transparency.” Among many others, the most contentious issue currently is the legitimacy of hundreds of thousands of ballots recorded before or after the Election Day official timing. As much as the IEC cites the whole vote recount and audit process the result of objections from electoral teams, closure of IEC offices in 14 provinces and late dispatch of reports by the Dermalog Company, it dares to resume it amid concerns and agitations and without resolving the issues which emerged and delayed it in the first place. IEC says the electoral authorities held two technical sessions with the election tickets and reports of reaching many joint decisions. But apparently, those decisions aren’t unanimous because Abdullah isn’t assured who claims the IEC gave no convincing response about thousands of votes to him.
As Abdullah warns of consequences and asking people to take to streets if IEC failed to rethink its decisions, which he said, were against laws and procedures, the situation seems to be snowballing out of control. An example of such consequences could be seen in IEC’s reports which suggested that Abdullah’s team members forced their way into the commission’s office in Kunduz province and broke chairs and beat staff shortly after the recount process was resumed on Sunday. The status quo brings into serious question the efficacy of the electoral management body because it’s not only Abdullah but all the rest of the presidential candidates– except President Ashraf Ghani – who suspect the transparency of the tallying. Given the recent happenings, one can conclude that it seems the IEC is obviously biased; it has miserably failed to sift fraudulent ballots from the valid ones and to assure people and the candidates of electoral transparency. Moreover, the inordinate delays in the announcement of results have crossed the threshold of tolerance of Afghans. Therefore, at this juncture, the IEC should try its level best to live up to the Afghans’ expectations and pay serious heed to the concerns of the candidates and thus avert a full-blown crisis, which is detrimental for the unity and political future of the Afghan state.