Preliminary Report of Parliamentary Election - 2018
After years of delay, the third parliamentary elections were held on 20th of October, 2018. These elections were of utmost important from legal and political perspectives as well as social and economic dimensions. The expiration of the legal mandate and period of the previous parliament for 3 years due to the delay in elections challenged the democracy and the rule of law. Hence, the holding of these elections provided an opportunity to the Afghans to choose who they want to be their representatives in the democratic intuitions. The Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) has developed and implemented a direct monitoring process for the electoral process designed to help the transparency, freedom and justice in the electoral process, in order to maintain maximum level of accuracy and credibility. The FEFA monitored the electoral process in one to three polling stations in each polling centers throughout the country. FEFA observers used an observation checklist to collect information about the centers, the beginning, and process, the end of the voting, observance of regulations and other topics, which contains more than one hundred and thirty relevant and appropriate questions. However, due to the prompt importance of some issues, FEFA categorized 26 event types of incidents as the most important and most influential cases, and received reports of their occurrence on a regular basis and in three stages on the Election Day from all the provinces with the exception of Ghazni of the country. The general managerial and logistical status, the accuracy of the commission's performance during the collection of votes, the prevention of illegal voting, the time opening and closing of the polling centers, the transparency of the process, and the possibility of observation are the most important indicators used by FEFA observers. The urgent and high-profile findings at polling hours were regularly shared with the election commission officials so the necessary steps to be taken.
Preliminary Report of Parliamentary Election - 2018
1) Training and procurement of biometric device It is necessary for the staff of the Commission to be trained how to use the biometric device. Part of the problems of not of using the biometric devices has been due to the weakness of the staff of the Commission. In addition, it is necessary that the devices to be tested before sending to the polling centers, and supplementary accessories such as chargers, printers, paper, etc. should to be provided. 2) Improving Logistics Status Many polling centers suffered from the lack of materials on polling day. This is due to the logistical weaknesses and operational incapability of the Commission. For example, sending incorrect material packets of one province to another, defect in voters’ list, and the lack of materials proportionate to the number of voters previously registered at the same PCs indicates the IEC's inability to function. It is compulsory to take the necessary action to correct this situation. 3) Improvement of management and operation chamber The Commission has opened a Special Operations chamber, for the Administration of Elections. However, it failed to respond to the needs of all polling centers. This indicates the inadequacy of measures and management weakness. Commissions’ planning needs to be tailored in accordance to past experiences and realistic needs, not based on pure optimism and deeming issues simplistic. This requires a more accurate assessment of operational requirements. For example, in the recent election, the commission had announced the average voting time for an individual is 30 to 50 seconds, while the actual fact proved to be the opposite. 4) Reforming the recruitment process It is necessary for the Commission to reconsider the recruitment mechanism for appointing more competent and committed individuals, devote more time to complete the recruitment process and facilitate the opportunity to monitor it. In the recent election period, many employees under influence of local power brokers or candidates were hired. Such people often lacked the necessary skills and literacy, but at various stages violated the Commission's impartiality principle. 5) Facilitating observation National and local observer bodies, political party and candidate observers, and ordinary people can prevent the spread of fraud, misuse of official authority, and misconduct of the Commission's staff. A number of commission staff not only did not act properly, but also been absent on Election Day, have taken action in favor of certain candidates or did not perform their duties desirably. If the commission facilitates the monitoring of employee performance, the efficiency of the commission's staff and the transparency of the election will increase. Facilitating observation can be done by awareness raising of the staff of the commission, simplifying the process of issuing credentials, and removing the number of observers in the registration, Polling centers, Tally Centers and Auditing centers. For the full list of recommendations download the enclosed report.
Major Findings: After going through the reports from our observers, FEFA came across the following important elements that had a significant impact on the voting process. 1. Problems With The Biometric Devices : According to the plans of IEC, all the polling stations were supposed to have a biometric device and the devices were to work properly. Unfortunately, in many polling stations and centers under FEFA’s surveillance, biometric devices were not delivered to the polling stations in time. In some cases they were either out of order or broke down during operation. As a result, the commission has not been able to use the biometric device to record voters’ bio-data and identity for various reasons. The main problems with the biometric machines as reported by our observers included the break down and failure of the biometric device, the battery ran out of charge, staff’s inability to use biometric device, intentional avoidance of using the devices by IEC staff, miss-delivery of the devices of one center to other center, the failure of the bio metric device printer or the lack of printing paper, and the ballots casted fraudulently and without using biometrics device in the absence of voters’ by candidates or other individuals. These were the most common problems on the first and second day of the election, which has been registered and reported by FEFA observers. The lack of use or improper use of the biometric device due to its high importance in the electoral process can undermine the transparency of voting in many centers and thus undermine the credibility of the election throughout the country. This problem alone accounts for over 15% of the problems reported by FEFA observers. 2. Delay In The Opening Of Polling Stations: It is very important that the number of voters in each center and the average completion time of the voting of an individual are taken into account while planning the timeframe for opening and closing of polling stations. Failure to realize that, means the change in the operational plan, the deprivation of a number of citizens from the right to vote, the reduction of operational efficiency and the dissatisfaction of the people. In most polling stations, citizens were already behind the gates of the polling centers even before 7 o'clock, but only a handful of centers began to work at their appointed time. The long delay in the opening of many polling centers, in addition to the voter's bother and dissatisfaction, have reduced the general optimism about the electoral process, reduced the number of voters and deprived a large number of voters. In many areas, the IEC staff came to the center or started work hours later than the appointed time. Despite the extension of polling day by the commission on the first day of voting, many polling stations were closed down in a number of constituencies, despite the long queues of voters and the remaining official time. However, in some areas, they did the opposite and left the centers opened until late hours. Although the commission extended voting hours for up to 8 o’clock in the evening to compensate for lost time, it action could not manage to compensate for this defect, as in most regions people were not able to keep waiting for the voting, due to increased cold, lack of security in the polling station, lack of light and other factors, and as a result of a mass of people, despite standing in the queue for hours, they could not benefit from their political right to determine their own destiny. Delay in opening the station accounts for 13% of the all the problems. 3. Issues With The Voters’ List: The preparation and use of voters’ lists in the elections was one of the main demands of the observatory organizations, political parties and civil society institutions. Voter registration and cataloging the voter’s lists took several months. It was expected that in the parliamentary elections of 2018, the issue of illegal voting would be significantly reduced. This was because plenty of time and resources were used at the registration stage to register and list voters as a filter to prevent fraud. IEC also promised political parties observatory institutions to install a full list of voters before election in polling stations and to fully use them on the Election Day. However, unfortunately, in many centers, the voters’ lists did not exist or were incomplete. The name of voters were based on alphabetical order, and there were no names in certain centers that began with certain letters. In a number of other centers, the voter list was mistakenly sent to other centers. The behavior of the IEC staff was different in dealing with such a situation; in a number of polling centers, the names of individuals were included in a separate list with the registration label, and in some centers such persons could not vote. The second list used for voting was pre-prepared as a table, but in others, only plain white papers were used to register voters. The lack of or defect in the list of votes not only deprived the citizens from their civil right, but provided grounds for fraud and out-of-quota voting. This problem accounts for nearly 9% of all reported incidents in terms of volume. 4. Security Threats: In spite of the honest dedications of the country's security forces, security threats in a number of polling stations and centers hindered or disrupted the electoral process. Terrorist groups had warned citizens about the consequences of being involved in democratic processes before the election. Disturbing the voter registration process, limiting the candidates' campaign and publicity opportunities, and attacking citizens and polling centers and killing citizens on Election Day were main tactics employed by these groups’ efforts to suppress democracy in the country. These threats coupled with the management and operational weaknesses of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) presented great challenges of holding inclusive, free and fair elections. The firm and resolute determination of citizens to participate in the elections and the exercise of their political right were the things that made the elections possible to be held. However, in some cases, security incidents caused the polling station to be closed by the election commission and the voting process would end earlier than the designated time. In some provinces and districts, high security threats have had a negative impact on voters’ political participation and in a number of areas due to the state of emergency the IEC failed to hold elections. Security threats account for nearly 7% of all reported incidents on Election Day. 5. Shortage Of Electoral Materials: In addition to the lack or defect of the biometric system or the delay in opening the polling stations, most centers faced with a lack of one or more electoral materials. In a number of polling stations, no part of the material had arrived before the early hours of the morning, resulting in closure of polling centers. One of the main factors that ultimately forced the commission to announce the extension of polling hours and adding the second day of election was material shortages, and closure of the centers. The lack of materials has been observed in the absolute majority of provinces. The biometrics, the voter list, the journal, the markers and the ballots were the most important materials that many centers have been affected due to lack of them. The lack of materials was limited to distant provinces and difficult to reach districts; dozens of polling centers in Kabul remained closed for several hours at the lowest geographical distance without any physical or security barriers, or did not open at all. Miss-delivery of materials was another common phenomenon that caused the process of voting to be disturbed. It was expected that the commission consider delivering the necessary materials for the constituencies, based on the information gathered in voters’ registration stage, but what was seen was the complete failure of the election commission's logistical and operational system. The issue could be theoretically and operationally resolved easily, but the Commission refused the precise planning with extreme optimism and simplicity and failed to complete the process of transferring materials even before the early hours of Election Day. The lack of materials does not necessarily mean all the items, but the lack of just one of the materials in most centers dragged the whole process to a shut down. Out of the 26 categories of violations, offenses and electoral fraud that are on the FEFA oversight list, close to 7 percent of it has been the lack of voting materials. Of course, the problem of the defect of the biometric system and the absence or defect of the voters’ list is not contained here in this title and was placed in a separate category because of the importance and prevalence. 6. Absence Of IEC Staff At The Designated Time: According to the IEC, each polling center should have 5 employees: 1) responsible for controlling the voter's queue; 2) responsible for identity and biometrics; 3) responsible for distributing the ballots and finger ink; 4) responsible for the ballot boxes; and 5) supervisor of the PC. The lack of any of these individuals would mean the disruption of voting process because given the number of voters in each center, the voting process should not be stopped or stricken, otherwise in many voters are deprived of voting to or at least adds to length of a queue and would create dissatisfaction and grievances to the public. Unfortunately, more than 6% of the events reported by FEFA observers indicate multi-hours absence of commission staff. In a number of polling centers, at least one of the abovementioned persons has not reached the center at the specified time. According to reports, the absence of a polling station employee often results in irregularities, longer waiting of voters, mismanagement of affairs (in particular voter identity check and biometrics), temporary closure of polling stations and instigating interventions of unauthorized individuals. In addition to staff absenteeism, the weakness of their executive capacity was another obstacle before the electoral process. For example, dozens of reports indicate that the IEC staff did not consider the use of the biometric device. Some of them even had difficulty finding names on the voters ‘list. In addition to general issues such as security and logistical problems, part of the deficiencies of the Election Day was the consequence of the disability of the Commission staff. Only lack of technical ability is not the problem, but a number of them lacked moral commitment and motivation to fulfill this great national responsibility. 7. Presence And Intervention Of Unauthorized Personnel The principle of non-interference of unauthorized personal is the most important element for the integrity of the election. Conscious participation, free competition and free election are meaningful when there is no unlawful involvement in the electoral process, and no one other than the voter him/herself can use his/her vote. Unauthorized individuals include all groups, with the exception of the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission; however, the scope of action of the Complaints Commission is limited on Election Day. The main elements included in this category include government officials, candidates, local influencers and powerbrokers, their supporters and observer entities. The staff of the commissions are also limited to the competences specified in the electoral law regulations and are bound to comply with the principle of impartiality. FEFA observers' direct observations indicate that in some polling centers, local influences and irresponsible gunmen have threatened the voters telling them to vote for a specific candidate. In a number of centers, the distribution of money on Election Day is in favor of a particular candidate has been observed. Contrary to the principle of competition and free election, a number of citizens have been voting, affected by the influence and threat of certain groups or have been deprived of their right to vote. In some centers, unarmed people have clearly made citizens to vote for a particular person. Although the presence of people may not be able to change the results of the vote or violate the democratic norms, it is likely to be a factor in infiltration or facilitate intervention. Unfortunately, in some cases, the background to the Commission staff was the mainstay of this violation. 8. Existence Of Electoral Campaign Materials In Polling Stations Or close to them: The campaign ended on the morning of the 18th of October. According to the law, the presence of publicity materials in the distance of 100 meters of the polling center or the continuation of campaigns on days of silence period and Election Day is prohibited. However, there were a lot of advertising activities near the centers and even within the polling centers. This rule focuses on healthy competition, giving citizens the opportunity to think and choose the right person, and maintain the integrity of the electoral process, and prevent intrusions and illegal interference with the electoral process. Unfortunately, this expectation was not fulfilled. This consists about 5% of emergency reports. 9. Underage Voting: In a number of polling centers, the number of underage voters was observed. Although specifying the voting age is not part of the IEC procedure, a number of people can clearly be identified as underage. Even in cases where under-age person(s) has been identified IEC staff has not prevented them from voting. Of course, this issue was neglected by the IEC and the Civil Population Registration Office at the registration stage. A huge amount of new Tazkeras were used for registration of voters. In many cases, candidates attempted to illegally send underage person(s) for registration and imposed them on the list by influence, threatening or subornation of their employees. However, on the Election Day, the commission did not take any measures to prevent these individuals from voting. The argument of the IEC staff has been that their benchmark is the voter list, and these people should be filtered out in the earlier stages. Although the commission had enough time to clean up the list before the election and cast many people out of the voters’ list, thousands of underage people voted with tagged Tazkeras. Since the number of such events has been low (only 49 cases in the PCs under FEFA observation), there is no serious concern about changing the results of the votes. 10. Group Voting: According to the voting procedure, the group voting is part of the electoral infractions. Although the group vote is not a direct fraud, it affects individuals' free choice and decision making. This issue, in addition to personal consequences for voters, can provide grounds for illegal campaigning, infiltration and disorder. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has also been observed in a number of polling stations. The number of such incidents is negligible and only 49 cases out of more than 1152 cases are registered. 11. Campaigns On Election Day: In addition to publicity material within or near the polling center, obvious and hidden campaigns continued on Election Day in many polling stations. This publicity was sometimes conducted within the centers, and individuals affiliated to the candidates were campaigning in favor of certain candidate without any effective barriers by the Commission staff. This implies a clear violation of the law and questions the fairness, justice and electoral freedom. According to reports, especially in areas where there were fewer observers or areas under influence of powerbrokers, active campaigns of candidates has been going on in direct presence of themselves their campaign team members and their observers. Distribution of promotional brochures, direct conversations with voters and distribution of candidates' photos were part of these campaign. 12. Voting After Official Time: The goal to determine the hours of voting is to regulate the process, to ensure the transparency of the process, the integrity of the election, and the maintenance of inclusive right of voting. However, in many cases, it has been observed that voting has continued beyond specified time. Since the delay in the opening of the centers led to an extension of the working hours, a number of citizens were able to enjoy the right to vote during additional hours, but unlike the norms in a number of PCs on the first day and the second day, people were not able to vote after the end of the official time .Since this opportunity has not been available to all, this is a violation of fairness and dualism with individuals and candidates. In the simplest analysis, this can change the balance of votes in favor of some candidates because they do not necessarily have the supporters of all the candidates in all the districts. More importantly, this violation can provide grounds for fraud and corruption. At the end of the day, and when observers and the public are not involved in preventing fraud, a number of people can specially engineer the votes with the collusion and cooperation of the Commission staff. It can even be assumed that the staff of the commission illegally extended the polling hours in some PCs because of the affiliation or influence of a particular candidate in order to provide the way polling in favor of a particular person. In addition, since the process of vote counting and registering the results is supposed to begin immediately after the end of the voting process, post-official time voting is clearly contradictory to the procedure and can disrupt the post-voting stages of the process. It’s natural that not everyone can stay in extreme cold weather, insecure areas, away from family members or (in some cases of women) without a guardian until midnight. Continuing the ballots after the appointed time, in addition to the possibility of orienting the votes in favor of the individual or certain individuals, can provide grounds for privacy and the plunder of the people's votes. 13. Observation Prevention: The monitoring of election by civilian observer organizations, political parties and candidate observers is the main mechanism for preventing corruption and fraud in the electoral process. For this reason, according to the Election law, the Commission is required to provide grounds for the presence of observers in polling stations. This includes training commission staff on the role of observers and their authority, co-ordination with security forces to avoid interference and respect for the role of observers and facilitate their presence at polling centers and stations. Unfortunately, in many cases, security forces or Commission staff prevented the presence of FEFA observers and other civil society organizations, political groups and candidates observes. This is a clear violation of the law and a factor in increasing the likelihood of fraud. In some polling centers, observers were expelled from the polling stations by force and with grievance. This has been a prevention has occurred both during the voting and in the ballot count. In a number of cases observers and monitors have been told that the ballot box will be open and votes will be counted on the second day, but an hour after the departure of observers from the PCs, votes have been counted. This indicates the lack of proper communication to the security authorities and the lack of training of the commission staff. In a more pessimistic way, it can be assumed that a number of local authority officials or regular employees consider observers to be a barrier to their personal, profitable, and fraudulent engagement. Perhaps for this reason, a number of polling center officials (sometimes with the help of individuals affiliated to some of the candidates) did not allow observers to monitor the process during the polling period or during certain hours throughout the day. Although this phenomenon is not numerous in number, but the nature of the offense is as such, that would pave the ground for widespread corruption and fraud in the elections. For this reason, its consequences can be more strenuous than other factors. 14. Repeated Voting: The principle of one person one vote, means that everyone has equal opportunity to vote. The integrity of the election results requires the equal exercise of the will of the citizens. Repeated voting opportunities violate the philosophy of justice and electoral equality. The outbreak of this phenomenon can affect the outcomes of the votes and will make the election run contrary to the will of the people. Since, in the voter registration period, there were a lot of shortcomings and violations, and people were able to register multiple times with fake Tazkeras, the frequency of repeated voting was predictable. Such people who are most likely to be affiliated with the candidates sought to have the opportunity to vote repeatedly in one polling center or several centers, and unfortunately they were able to vote more than once on Election Day. This fraud was made possible by the fact that the identity cards (Tazkeras) of the people in a number of polling centers were not checked properly, the finger inks were erasable, or the commission staff under the influence of some of the candidates helped the fraud to take place. According to observers' reports, a number of people have been able to vote using the tag on the duplicate or fake Tazkeras, while the tag was declared explicitly invalid on the copy of the Tazkeras. 15. Violation Of The Principle Of Neutrality By The Commission Staff: Independent Election Commission staff, as implementers of law and election, play the most vital role in integrity of election. But unpleasant events of violation of the impartiality by the staff of the Commission have been observed and reported. Using a biometric device for a group brought by a particular candidate to the center and refusing to use it for other people, prioritizing particular individuals during voting, not paying attention to checking their Identity documents, and allowing individuals of Candidates to continue direct and indirect campaigning are examples of the violation of the principle of impartiality of the Commission staff, which has been observed in a number of stations. Some of the staff, have endangered the Commission's impartiality principle because of their family affiliation with a number of candidates. The campaign of supervisors and staff of the polling centers in favor of a particular candidate, allowing freely a campaigning of candidates, waiving the misconduct of certain voters in favor of a particular candidate, disregarding the filling of ballot boxes, not displaying the contents of the box to observers before the start of voting, closing the polling center to facilitate fraud by certain individuals, encouraging people to vote for a particular person, obtaining votes from people who have not previously registered, allowing unauthorized individuals associated with a specific candidate, and prohibiting the entry and voting of people who were not willing to vote to a specific candidate, was another violation of the principle impartiality by the Commission staff. This function can invalidate all the votes of a center or station. 16. Other Incidents: Other events recorded on election days included these; not inking of voters’ fingers, the possibility of erasing of the finger ink, the presence and intervention of unauthorized persons in the vote count process, not checking of the Tazkeras and the stickers by the commission staff, the voting After the designated time, the threatening and compulsion of the people to vote for a particular candidate, proxy voting, not installing and not distributing a copy of the results list, votes counting at a different location from the polling station, failing to register unused and spoiled ballots, and buying and selling of Voting on the election day and not sealing the ballot boxes at the end of the voting process. Although some of these events can be considered as significant in terms of affects, these events represent as a whole 11% of the all reported incidence.
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