KABUL - The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) officially began investigating complaints lodged against Presidential and Provincial Council candidates on Saturday, but with bumps along the road already as the three-day delay of the preliminary candidate list announcement put the ECC's process behind schedule and hundreds of complaints still have yet to be sent in from provincial offices.
The ECC has been charged with reviewing and judging both complaints submitted by the general public against Presidential and Provincial Council candidates as well as challenges by candidates who object to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) disqualifying them from running.
The IEC announced the preliminary list of eligible candidates for the spring elections on Tuesday, three days after it was scheduled to. The dramatic cuts made by the IEC startled many, with only 10 of the original 26 Presidential candidates making the list and nearly 400 out of roughly 3,000 Provincial Council contenders eliminated.
ECC officials said they had registered a total of 474 complaints from across the country against the candidates who were deemed eligible by the IEC. Eighteen of the complaints are said to be related to the 10 Presidential candidates.
The ECC's Secretariat is now tasked with categorizing all the complaints and then the investigation process would begin in presence of Afghan and foreign observers from a host of organizations, including, election monitoring groups, news media and political parties.
"The categorization of the complaints started early today to identify the kinds of complaints and whether or not more documents would need to be requested from the complainants," said Nader Mohseni, the head of the ECC Secretariat.
According to statements made by Mohseni in past weeks, any complaints having to do with human rights violations would be forwarded on by the ECC to Afghan judicial bodies for investigation.
The ECC also indicated that its process was somewhat thrown off by the delay in the IEC's preliminary list announcement, but said the biggest problem it faced at the moment was that a significant portion of the documents for registered complaints have not yet been sent in to its offices in Kabul from the provinces.
"Only 253 complaints have reached the ECC center in Kabul," said Mohseni.
The ECC does not have its own offices outside of the capital, so complaints in other provinces were submitted to IEC satellite offices. The reason these provincial offices failed to transfer the complaints they received to Kabul on time was not known.
Given the uproar that followed from the IEC's drastic disqualifications on Tuesday, it is also likely the ECC received a bevy of challenges from candidates seeking to overturn the IEC's decision and get back in the running for next spring. The ECC only afforded 48-hours to the disqualified candidates to submit these challenges following the preliminary list announcement.
Reportedly, reviewing the challenges of eliminated candidates will be a secondary priority for the ECC, which will be focusing most of its energy on assessing complaints against the candidates who did made Tuesday's cut.
With a likely chain reaction of the IEC's preliminary list delay, and the substantial load of complaints and challenges the ECC has on its hands, it is certainly not out of the question that the pre-election schedule will see further deviations. For now, however, the final list of candidates for the April vote is still set to be announced on November 16. (Tolo News)