Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Cancellation of Election Results of Entire Kabul Province is yet another Blow to People’s Trust on Electoral Process

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Cancellation of Election Results of Entire Kabul Province is yet another Blow to People’s Trust on Electoral Process

Transparent, fair and free elections and electoral processes form the bedrock of a democratic society. It is through these processes and institutions that people’s voices, their will to be part of democratic flow in their society and their participation, which would result in a sense of inclusiveness, independence, ownership of their government and governance process and construction of a rule based constitutional system, which would govern the way how they live, are reflected. But alas, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and Electoral Compliant Commission (ECC), the two major institutions responsible for administering and supervising elections and electoral processes and addressing objections and complaints respectively, have miserably failed to come up to the expectations of people of Afghanistan. Both are the main pillars of the election process and they have functional autonomy. Despite numerous failures these two institutions exhibited during the last eight months when electoral process started in March 2018 to the run up to conducting parliamentary elections, which took place on 20 October 2018, recent cancellation of elections results of the entire Kabul province is a shameful indication of inability and pathetic status of IEC. ECC also ignored objections and complaints raised earlier and waited till they evaluated the accumulated impact on Kabul.
It seems the two bodies i.e. IEC and ECC have not synchronized themselves and have not developed rule based policies and mechanisms in place to form a platform whereby they could work together on policies, modus operandi of conducting electoral processes and consultations before they encounter a catastrophe such as the one on Kabul yesterday. Article 93 of Election Law 2016 empowers the ECC to be the final decision making body with regard to addressing electoral objections and complaints and Art 94 authorizes the ECC to invalidate the election if the principles of fair, secret and direct election are compromised. This landmark decision of ECC shows that the IEC could not live up to the expectations and there were repeated complaints of malpractices, which could not be addressed timely. ECC, which is an important oversight body to address complaints and infuse credibility into the process, was late to take off but at least started ‘a new beginning’ towards credible elections if their decision is based upon irrefutable facts.
Hours after ECC announced nullification of 2018 parliamentary elections results for Kabul province, IEC has jumped out to reject ECC announcement and brand it as ‘illegal’. This sorry state of IEC is a disappointing indication of ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the scale and breadth of structural problems prevailing in the entire election process at a much larger magnitude.
At present, lack of coordination and cooperation between IEC and ECC where IEC ensures fair, transparent and credible election and ECC ensures addressing objections and complaints efficiently, continue to take immense toll on both, people’s trust and the ongoing electoral process. In addition, lack of coordination and cooperation between IEC and government defense and security institutions have already inflicted huge miseries on civilians as hundreds of people – men and women – were killed and injured in almost all the provinces in the country during registration of candidates in April, election campaign and election day on 20 and 21 October. In some areas, some people could not participate and cast their votes due to lack of availability of proper security and safety nets.
In addition, use of government facilities, power and position by candidates who were existing members of parliament and individual candidates with kinship to powerful government officials in provinces to suit their individual or group interests during this year electoral processes, have further added to the miseries of people and ruined the very concept of a ‘free and fair’ elections. This phenomena has happened at a time when many ordinary civilians had braced to face existential security challenges and come out of their homes to vote for candidates of their choice, in order to ‘get rid of the present parliament and parliamentarians’ who they believed ‘have been responsible for much of the miseries’ of the people in this country. 
The voters who casted their votes now start to question legitimacy and abilities of IEC and ECC to decide on matters concerning their votes, elections and electoral processes. One of the major factors that have contributed to this situation is the unpredictability of both IEC and ECC. Any major event has mini-events at its peripheries that pave the way for it, and those mini-events could be logical pathways and basis for making major decisions. ECC should have taken note of those mini events timely and IEC should be undertaken path corrections as and when requires. Now, ECC should have shared with the people causes and effects that they believed warranted nullification of the entire province’s results.
In addition, to avoid legitimacy of, and possible challenges to their decisions, IEC leadership should take lessons to restructure its election process and come out in public with their strategy and methodology. People’s sacrifice and their acceptance of democratic values and system are the most important factors, which both IEC and ECC should consider while deciding on matters that belong to the people and to the entire democratic system in the country. It seems lack of leadership or the ability of leadership in the highest echelon of these two organizations, more in IEC doesn’t seem to care for these values. Elections results for many of the provinces in the country are still pending announcement despite the passage of more than one and half month, and neither IEC nor ECC have come forward to present valid reasons for such delays! It is a shame that two most important institutions responsible for conducting free and fair elections are now becoming in the spotlight with questions over their legitimacy and ability to do the very job they are meant for.

Mohammed Gul Sahibbzada is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammed.g.sahibbzada@gmail.com

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