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Is IEC Capable of Holding Free and Fair Election

Feature: Can IEC Ensure Free and Fair Election?

About three months remain for presidential election in Afghanistan, but electoral observers have already expressed concerns over the lack of transparency mechanism for the elections. A number of election-observing bodies say the government is not prepared to hold transparent and acceptable polls in the country.
Recently, Naeem Ayubi, head of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) during a press conference along with the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) officials said that according to their investigation there is no possibility of holding timely election on September 28, as government is not committed to conduct polls and has not yet taken the electoral process seriously.
Ayubi also stated that the first pre-poll assessment report is conducted, which highlights that due to the lack of a clear list of voters, the use of the biometric device on election day, the controversial number of voters, vagueness of the international community’s support for the election process, pre-election campaign, and the lack of a definition of the relationship between the government and the Independent Election Commission, holding transparent election nationwide that should be acceptable to all Afghans on September 28 is impossible.
The head of TEFA added that still the voter lists are not clear and the IEC has not prepared any mechanism to verify the voter lists. He said that the fake Tazkiras with stickers which were used in parliamentary elections still exist. To correct the doubt statistics and fake ID cards is not possible in this short period.
If this issue is not solved immediately, the upcoming polls will go towards crisis. The number of voters during recent parliamentary polls was between 3 to 5 million but the statistics that is published by Independent Election Commission (IEC) still mentions about 9.6 million voters as registered.
The use of the biometric device is a major challenge to the holding of the elections. Taking the picture of women on election day has not been decided until now. A number of cultural and traditional issues are opposed to taking photographs by the biometric device on election day.
On the other hand, the head of the TEFA says the government has not yet defined its relationship with the IEC. The vagueness of this relationship has caused the government to intervene in the affairs of IEC. The government needs to define its relationship with the IEC in order to allow the Commission to have autonomy in its work.
According to TEFA officials the support of international community from Afghan Presidential Elections in 2019 is considered very important
According to head of TEFA, the donor countries in the previous elections have identified the process. Now, despite the fact that the international community pledged financial and technical support to the elections, they have not fulfilled their commitment to hold elections. The international community’s support for the election process is ambiguous, which will challenge the proceedings during the elections.
However, election watchdogs have urged the international community and the government to commit themselves to holding transparent and timely elections. They have also urged the government to stop using government resources in electoral campaigns. In addition, these observing institutions have called for international supporters and the government to provide for monitoring of the election.
On the other hand, the commissioners ‘of IEC are not well experienced, and if the achievements of the election commission over the past few months are analyzed, we come to know that there is a chance of fraud and rigging in upcoming presidential polls.
One of main challenges for National Unity Government (NUG) is the legitimacy of the polls. The 2014 presidential election was with the crisis. There is enough evidence to prove that the election was rigged in the favor of President Ghani. This is not the claim of the current political opponents of the incumbent president alone, the foreign researchers have come to the same conclusion with the 2014 polls. An American researcher, Thomas H. Johnson, in one of his research treatises, showed evidence that polling centers in some parts of the region were formed in the 2014 elections and their votes were announced to Mr. Ghani. In that election, Dr. Abdullah’s votes were missing.
NUG, IEC, and all politicians should learn from the failure of the 2014 presidential election. If the former US secretary of State John Kerry had not mediated at that time, even the current fragile rule would not have formed, and the crisis would have entered more serious phase.
Thus, it is vital that the presidential election must be held through a transparent process so that it earns the legitimacy and support of the politicians and the people; otherwise, achieving stability and democracy through democratic means would remain a dream and people may opt for non-democratic options.
(Sahar News)

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