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ESG for credible, transparent elections

AT News Report

KABUL: Ahead of the 28 September election, the Election Support Group (ESG) Ambassadors met with presidential candidates to discuss their role in contributing to a transparent electoral process ahead of, on, and post-Election Day. 

The Ambassadors welcomed all efforts to strongly encourage Afghans to go to the polls and elect their future leadership, ESG said in a statement on Monday.

The Ambassadors acknowledged the large number of agents accredited by candidates so far and encourage those who have not done so to take advantage of the extension of the registration window, which will close on 25 September.

The presence of agents and other Afghan election observers in polling stations and at the National Tally Centre, and their close observation of all stages of the polling, counting, and tally process provide an important check on the institutions responsible for delivering transparent elections for the Afghan people, the statement added.

The Ambassadors noted the concerns expressed by several candidates about the level playing field and improper use of state resources to influence and/or co-opt voters, which erode public confidence in the fairness of the process.

In this regard, they reiterated their previous call for all candidates to respect the Election Law and the Code of Conduct they signed, and refrain from any actions that undermine the process, the statement added.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) have an obligation to keep the public informed of steps being taken to curb such violations including egregious instances of abuse of public resources to enable voters to make an informed choice. 

The Ambassadors noted their support for non-partisan domestic electoral observers to provide an additional check both on candidates and electoral institutions, and their right to call out abuses on Election Day and in the days that follow.

According to the statement, the Ambassadors reiterated that the credibility of the election is the collective responsibility of not just the electoral institutions, but all Afghan stakeholders including candidates.

They called upon candidates and their supporters to actively support the remaining phases of the process. Candidates must refrain from unsubstantiated public accusations or allegations, avoid interference in the voting, counting, results tabulation and complaints adjudication processes, and submit immediately any evidence-based grievances they may have through the established institutional complaints mechanism, the ECC, the statement added.

“We will hold all candidates accountable to the code of conduct they signed.  Candidates must not dispute results through extra-legal means or civil disorder. The Ambassadors urged all candidates to strongly and publicly condemn all forms of election-related violence and threats of violence.  The Ambassadors underlined the importance of all stakeholders ensuring the full participation of Afghan women in the election.”

The ESG also highlighted the important role of the IEC and the ECC as the custodians of the votes of the Afghan people, and the need for them to shoulder this great responsibility independently, professionally, and with impartiality in the days ahead.

“We commend the steps they have taken so far to ensure the elections are as credible and transparent as possible. Afghan voters who risk their lives to participate in elections deserve to know the outcome accurately reflects their choice,” the statement concluded.

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