KABUL: A further delay in releasing the initial results of Afghanistan’s presidential poll could lead to interference and more fraud, a watchdog group warned Sunday.
The head of the government-appointed Independent Election Commission (IEC), Hawa Alam Nuristani, said the announcement was being delayed due to technical issues.
She did not say when the results would be disclosed, but IEC officials said it could take up to a week.
The vote, itself twice delayed, was marred by attacks and allegations of irregularities.
“Of course the delay shows the mismanagement of the commission,” Mohammad Nayem Azghari, a senior official with the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA), told Arab News. “Time is one of the main factors for an election process and the commission’s failure to release the results is a violation.”
He said that the IEC had failed to collect data soon after the vote, and that there was an eight-day delay in transferring data to the central server. “A further delay will have negative consequences. It will put under question the independence of the commission, pave the ground for more fraud and create an opportunity for political interference in the commission.”
He confirmed Nuristani’s accounts — that some of the presidential nominees had interfered in the election process — and highlighted division within the IEC’s ranks as an opportunity for such meddling.
“Division will help the two teams (for the frontrunners) use the opportunity in their favor, manipulate the process and get votes through legitimate and illegitimate ways.”
But he said the results’ process was manageable if the IEC could avert another crisis similar to the one in 2014 polls, when Ashraf Ghani and his rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah were tied. On that occasion, there was a second round of voting and both formed a joint government under a US-brokered deal.
Ghani, who went on to be appointed president, and Abdullah have said they respect the IEC delay and hope it will ensure transparency and fairness.
But their teams have clashed over the inclusion of biometric and non-biometric votes in the election.
The IEC has discarded over 500,000 votes that were non-biometric. One of the main reasons for the results’ delay, according to IEC officials speaking privately, has been linked to the disagreement between the two camps on the biometric issue.
The Afghan people yearn to hear about the results of the presidential election, but we respect the IEC’s decision to postpone announcing the results to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability of the final vote.
Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan
“The Afghan people yearn to hear about the results of the presidential election, but we respect the IEC’s decision to postpone announcing the results to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability of the final vote,” Ghani said hours after the IEC announced the delay.
Younus Nawandesh, from Abdullah’s team, also welcomed the delay and stressed the need for transparency.
“We know that the slowness and halt of transfer of data is a natural thing and is not a matter of concern for us. The transparency of the processing data and that the results are faultless is important for us.”
Other presidential candidates, who have in recent days accused Ghani and Abdullah’s teams of being involved in fraud, have remained silent about the IEC delay.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the nominees, in a press conference on Sunday repeated his allegation.
“We have evidence of fraud in the election and at the proper time we will share the evidence. A huge number of people were not able to vote during the election to vote because their names were not on the ballot lists.
Nearly 1.8 million people out of the 9.6 million who were registered to vote went to the polls.
No local or foreign observer group has said whether the low turnout will have any influence on the legitimacy of the vote or the future government.
Whoever wins the election faces a massive task — reviving dead-in-the-water peace talks with the Taliban.
After nearly a year of intense dialogue — involving only Taliban delegates and US diplomats at the militant group’s request — US President Donald Trump abruptly called off the signing of a deal and said the talks were finished.