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Afghanistan’s 2019 Election (14): In Herat, power and comms failure, district insecurity and low turnout

Afghanistan's 2019 Election (14): In Herat, power and comms failure, district insecurity and low turnout

An IEC worker takes a photo of a voter through the use of a BVV gadget in Khaja Muhammad Taki High Faculty polling centre. Photograph: writer

There was a slight improve in campaigning in the previous few days ahead of the poll, especially within the provincial capital, however E-Day itself suffered from electricity and telecommunication failures in lots of elements Herat province. Worse, the Taleban launched assaults on areas near polling centres in districts across the province with a view principally to intimidating voters into staying at house. Widespread voter disillusionment, notably because the previous mismanaged parliamentary elections in 2018, all contributed to a considerably low turnout: with about 20 per cent of registered voters casting their ballots, in accordance with the newest figures launched by the central Unbiased Election Fee (IEC) in Kabul. Reporting on both macro-provincial and micro-level of some polling centres in Herat metropolis, AAN researcher Reza Kazemi particulars how the ballot went off in this populous and subsequently electorally-significant province.

Herat elections: security

  • Electricity was reduce off on the eve of the elections in northern districts and elements of Herat metropolis. It appears the Taleban interrupted electrical energy to disrupt the elections, notably intra-IEC communications.
  • In addition, telecommunications have been down earlier than, during and after the polling day. Numerous theories have emerged as to why this occurred: Taleban disrupting the elections, the government wanting a information blackout of any assaults, or one or numerous actors providing circumstances for attainable fraud.
  • There have been quite a few clashes in several districts around polling day, with casualties for both the Taleban and authorities. Nevertheless, for probably the most half, the Taleban didn’t immediately goal polling centres and seem to have needed to warn off and scare potential voters, moderately than kill them.

Herat elections: polling

  • Technically, the balloting was carried out a lot better than in 2018 parliamentary elections; there have been fewer issues with the Biometric Voter Verification (BVV) units, voters lists and staffing on the polling centres.

Herat elections: turnout

  • Preliminary knowledge launched by IEC central exhibits 253 polling centres have been open, of which 220 reported votes had been forged and the remaining 33 that there had been no voting. The IEC initially deliberate that 300 polling centres would open; after a security evaluation ahead of the elections, this dropped to 268. On E-Day, solely 253 centres truly opened.
  • The newest IEC central knowledge exhibits round 130,000 individuals forged their ballots, out of a total number of 571,000 registered voters (virtually 23 per cent). Although Herat’s turnout is the sixth largest nationwide, it was considerably decrease on this election than previous ones; within the 2018 elections, for instance, some 340,000 individuals voted (virtually 60 per cent).
  • This knowledge ought to be taken with a grain of salt. The IEC, both its headquarters and provincial workplace, has yet to release turnout figures per polling centre. There’s additionally a caveat concerning the provincial Election Complaints Commission (ECC) declare that no fraud passed off, because as time passes, more problems might come to mild, regardless that the deadline for lodging complaints has already expired.

Pre-polling: uptick in campaigning, increase in safety and breakdown in telecommunications

Though campaigning was principally insipid in Herat (read the writer’s pre-election dispatch), it turned busier in the previous few days before the poll when candidates and their local supporters rushed to woo a reluctant voter population. Extra campaign billboards have been put up, more rallies have been held and yet one more candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, confirmed up on the town. (1) [corrected on 5 October 2019 at 19:30]

This last-ditch push was partly facilitated by Herat’s parliamentarians and different figures of affect; they eventually got here out in help of particular presidential hopefuls. In his marketing campaign rally in Herat metropolis, for instance, Abdullah was surrounded by 4 Herat MPs, Habib ul-Rahman Pedram, Ghulam Faruq Majruh, Qazi Nazir Ahmad Hanafi and Sayyed Azim Kabarzani. Another influential figures simultaneously gathered and met Ashraf Ghani in the capital Kabul to again his re-election bid; among them have been, as an example, Mawlawi Khodadad Saleh, the top of the ulama (spiritual scholars) council in western Afghanistan, and MP Muhammad Reza Khoshak Watandost. Based mostly on ethnic, political social gathering and other links with presidential aspirants or their operating mates, this emerging alignment has been a product of behind-the-scenes quid professional quo negotiations.

As campaigning moved in the direction of a barely bustling tempo, there was additionally increased security posturing. A day before the ballot, Herat city and district gates have been closed to heavy automobiles reminiscent of vans. On the evening earlier than the elections, the provincial authorities banned all motorised visitors in Herat metropolis, apart from automobiles that had acquired special permits. As more troops have been dispatched to secure elections within the districts, fewer have been seen by AAN on the entry factors to and intersections in Herat metropolis. An officer from the provincial Nationwide Directorate of Safety (NDS) office informed AAN:

The government has despatched extra safety forces, even visitors cops, to districts comparable to Zenda Jan and Ghoryan [in the west] to offer safety for the election there. It’s as a result of Herat metropolis itself is protected and there isn’t a need for plenty of troops provided that its surroundings are well-protected.

For his or her half, Taleban vowed to disrupt elections in Herat. Two Unbiased Election Fee (IEC) staff in Gulran district within the north and Shindand within the south advised AAN, for instance, that native Taleban had warned them and their colleagues to not work and the individuals basically not to vote, saying polling centres have been army targets. In Gulran, warning notices appeared on some mosque and faculty walls, threatening to bomb polling websites and reduce off the fingers of those who voted. In the identical district, the Taleban even went door to door in some neighbourhoods, telling individuals to avoid the polling centres. In Shindand, an IEC worker advised AAN:

A couple of days in the past, some individuals who had held a campaign occasion for a candidate have been kidnapped by the Taleban. Their fate isn’t recognized but. The Taleban have warned the local population not to take part within the elections. Some individuals have bought no matter foodstuff they want for a couple of days because the Taleban won’t let anybody get out of their areas for the period around the elections.

Telecommunications additionally turned a serious battleground. In most districts in Herat, the service has been stopped from about 6 pm to 6 am the following day for a number of hours (eg Kushk within the north, Ghoryan within the west, Adraskan in the south and Pashtun Zarghun within the east). It has been worse in some districts like Zavul within the south the place providers are off from about 9 am to three pm and then once more from about 6 pm to six am the following day. Before polling, nevertheless, there have been rumours that mobile phone service – and electrical energy – may go off all day lengthy to undermine the elections, especially by disrupting intra-IEC communications needed to handle the elections and switch polling centre knowledge from the sector to the provincial IEC workplace in Herat city and then on to IEC headquarters in Kabul.

The rumours did indeed turn into reality. On the night time of 27 September, hours before polling commenced, an improved explosive gadget (IED) destroyed electrical energy transmission towers in Kushk district in the north, chopping off electrical energy provide imported from Turkmenistan. This left elements of the province (northern districts and elements of Herat metropolis) without electricity for a number of days, before, during and after polling. At the similar time, there was a telecommunication breakdown as all cellular network operators turned dysfunctional across the polling day. Although the facility shutdown seems to have been carried out by the Taleban, there have been totally different theories over who brought on the cell phone service breakdown. Some say it was the Taleban eager to disrupt the elections. Others marvel if it was the government making an attempt to stop reporting on safety incidents which may have discouraged voters. Another principle voiced is that a information blackout would offer circumstances for fraud, particularly in additional distant, less secure districts.

Since info continues to be rising about how elections have gone off across Herat province, the remainder of this dispatch is organised in two sections. First, it seems to be at the polls in Herat province with concentrate on one polling centre in Herat metropolis on E-Day. Second, it briefly returns to the larger provincial picture, assessing the quantity, quality and safety of the current elections.

Polling: an in depth view from Herat city and one polling centre particularly

On polling day, roads have been shut to visitors. The town was quiet and there was not the standard hustle and bustle on the streets, notably in the busy Badmurghan Sq.. The police have been stopping anybody who had, as normal, come out on their motorbikes. The street by which Masjed ul-Reza polling centre was situated in police district 3 was blocked by two automobiles that had been parked at each ends, and there was a police Ranger car parked in front of the entrance to the mosque where some eight police and national security officers had been assigned to offer safety for polling. Another armed police officer stood on the roof of the mosque. The wall of the mosque had already been strengthened with a concrete blast wall a couple of years in the past to protect it from assaults that have targeted Shia locations of worship in Herat throughout the previous few years (extra on these attacks in the writer’s earlier dispatch). The mosque can also be used as a highschool referred to as Shahid Sultani. Some 20 individuals have been waiting outdoors the centre before polling started.

Masjed ul-Reza polling centre had 9 male polling stations (five within the courtyard and 4 in lecture rooms within the basement) and eight female polling stations (all in the basement and separated by two doors, of which one related to the courtyard and the other to a small alley the place there was a particular entrance for ladies to enter the mosque). This writer principally accessed male polling stations and could entry feminine polling stations solely on the finish of polling when candidate agents and observers have been briefly allowed by the IEC to go there to take pictures of polling station outcome sheets.

There were many candidate brokers and some observers. Within the male polling stations, this writer counted 11 candidate brokers for Ashraf Ghani, eight for Abdullah Abdullah, two for Ahmad Wali Massud, one for Nur ul-Haq Ulumi, one for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and one for Sayyed Nurullah Jalili. In addition, three observers (one every for Election Grievance Fee (ECC), Free and Truthful Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) and Afghanistan Civil Society Forum organisation (ACSFo)) have been counted. As for candidate brokers in feminine polling stations, this writer heard from a male candidate agent working for Abdullah that “candidate agents working for Ghani are more than those working for Abdullah. They’re about twice more, both in male and female polling stations.” He stated they have been in touch with Abdullah’s feminine candidate agents as a result of “we acquired meals for lunch from our marketing campaign headquarters and gave them their share of the food.” The male candidate agent working for Jalili stated there have been additionally two feminine agents for his candidate at the website.

First, IEC staff learn out poll field lock numbers in each polling station to candidate agents and observers and showed them that biometric voter verification (BVV) units have been empty of any pre-existing knowledge and dealing correctly. In polling station 01, this writer recorded these 5 ballot field lock numbers: P590611, P590612, P590613, P590614 and P590615. When poll bins have been locked and every thing else was ready on the IEC aspect, voters have been let to return in to forged their ballots at 07:08 am.

IEC staff are studying out ballot box lock numbers after which locking poll packing containers in the presence of candidate brokers and observers. Photograph: writer


They have been the first individuals to return in to forged their ballots in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre in police district three of Herat city. Photograph: writer

At 07:40 am, there was not any queue at the polling centre, while voters stored coming in small numbers. It was quiet inside too. Not having had breakfast, many people contained in the polling centre including IEC employees, candidate agents and observers purchased meals like desserts, biscuits and drinks from a grocery retailer that was open on the road outdoors. “One can’t battle on a hungry abdomen,” the ECC observer stated, referring to the famous Afghan proverb that one needs a full stomach to do business.

There was no queue in front of Masjed ul-Reza polling centre, although voters have been coming in small numbers. Photograph: writer


This clearly contrasted with the 2018 parliamentary elections when there was a really long queue in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre all through the day. Photograph: writer

By 08:04 am, even fewer voters have been trickling in to vote. Most IEC employees have been unoccupied. A person on crutches came in and was directed by the queue officer to one of the male polling stations within the basement. He didn’t find his identify there and was redirected to one of the polling stations in the courtyard. He was drained and already had sweat on his forehead from walking up and down stairs. He lastly found his identify and forged his ballot. Whereas leaving the polling centre, he informed AAN:

I’ve come to vote with problem. You see I can solely stroll with crutches. Individuals say, ‘We don’t go to vote as a result of our votes don’t determine our president.’ They say, ‘It’s fraud that decides.’ Some others say, ‘It’s the USA that decides.’ However I hope my ballot and the ballots forged by others who have come out to vote at the moment will be the solely [factor] figuring out who our subsequent president might be.

An elderly voter advised AAN:

This yr, IEC staff are well-trained. They’re extra conversant in using the computer [BVV device]. I wanted that they had been so in final yr’s election. I reside nearby and, thank God, there aren’t many issues like insecurity in our space.

Because it was not a busy polling day, IEC staff, observers and candidate agents current in the polling centre had ample time to talk to at least one another. A candidate agent stated the IEC was better organised this time and thought extra individuals would come as we moved in the direction of afternoon, whereas the ECC observer thought prime polling time had already elapsed and turnout can be low within the metropolis and much decrease within the districts:

On this election, the IEC is ready and all the things is working nicely. A voter’s identify is found simply and soon. The biometric system is working correctly. Voters don’t spend a variety of time waiting to return in to forged their votes. However the problem is that there aren’t many people turning out to vote. Individuals aren’t concerned with getting out of their homes. There’s no queue. There isn’t any bustle. Things may change, although, as we move in the direction of midday as individuals may assess how elections go of their areas and then determine to get out and vote. Additionally, yesterday was Friday [weekend] and immediately can also be off. Some individuals may need slept longer they usually may get out of their houses later.

– A candidate agent

I’ve just come from Jami High Faculty polling centre and Khwaja Muhammad Taki High Faculty polling centre in the metropolis. There weren’t any queues there, either. In all earlier elections, early morning was the prime time when giant numbers of voters got here out to forged their ballots. It’s very totally different this time. It’s scorching lately in Herat and I don’t assume many will end up within the warmth of the afternoon. If this is the turnout in the city, turnout is more likely to be much decrease within the districts.

– ECC observer

There was little to no dialog about polling in the districts as a result of the cellular networks have been down.

On this polling centre, AAN noticed a number of voters who went on to the piped water area of the mosque to scrub off the ink on their fingers after casting their ballots. When a voter was washing off the ink, an IEC officer informed him not to take action for candidate agents and observers may object to it. The voter informed him he was leaving for Kandahar by street the next day and he didn’t need to be stopped by the Taleban in their checkpoints. “They’ll minimize off my finger if they see the ink,” he stated. Far from condemning the voter, a candidate agent gave him advice. He prompt to him to use “even liquid bleach or acetone to clear off the ink.” The voter stated he did not care about something however washing the ink off. This delivered to life the worry from the Taleban for participating within the elections and the danger some Afghans decided to take to help their younger democracy, despite all its shortcomings.

Though the IEC dealt with the elections properly this time, there have been still some problems. At round 09:30 am, five people who had come to vote were not allowed to do so because their names were not discovered both on the voter lists or the BVV units of the polling stations. This was while, as AAN noticed, their tazkeras (national ID papers) had stickers that showed that they had registered on the polling centre. Around 10 am, a feminine voter’s identify was present in a male polling station where she was directed and allowed to forged her vote. In the afternoon, the writer got here across a voter who had come from a faraway part of the town to forged his vote in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre. “I came here as a result of my identify wasn’t found within the polling centre I’d registered they usually informed me to return right here to vote,” he stated. An analogous case relayed to AAN by a dependable supply came to the discover of the writer in Nassaji polling centre in Guzara district the place a voter, not finding his identify at the native polling centre the place he was registered, determined not to go to the polling centre within the city the place his identify had, by mistake, ended up.

From about 11:00 am to 12:00 midday, AAN briefly noticed polling in Khwaja Muhammad Taki Excessive Faculty polling centre, also situated in police district 3 of Herat city. There were comparable observations there. A FEFA observer stated voter numbers had been very small since early morning when the polling centre opened. There was a queue of 30 individuals at first, in accordance with a candidate agent working for Abdullah, however there have been no queues thereafter. A candidate agent working for Ghani stated the BVV units labored nicely, IEC staff have been extra expert than last time and there were more polling stations, but only small numbers of individuals had turned out to forged their ballots. AAN noticed several polling stations (eg polling station 09) by which IEC staff had nothing to do because there were no voters in the course of the time AAN was observing. The polling centre officer there knowledgeable different officers of a central IEC determination made in Kabul that voters whose names were not discovered on the voter record but have been discovered within the BVV gadget and vice versa have been eligible to vote.

An IEC employee takes a photograph of a voter through the use of a BVV system in Khaja Muhammad Taki High Faculty polling centre. Photograph: writer

AAN returned to its statement of Masjed ul-Reza polling centre in the afternoon, from 01:25 pm onwards. As with breakfast, lunch was a concern for those working in the polling centre. While some marketing campaign headquarters introduced meals for their candidate agents in this polling centre, others have been paid money to organize meals on their very own. Some IEC staff had engaged in andiwali (actually which means comradeship), a follow of elevating cash from each other, paying, getting ready, cooking and consuming meals in a shared room. So that they had their lunch in a room in the mosque. They even, one after another, left their obligation, made ablutions (wuzu) and stated their prayers within the prayer hall that had not been designated for polling. This was straightforward to do as a result of they have been so few voters coming in.

The IEC employees, candidate agents and observers who had stayed within the polling centre since early morning have been slowly turning into more accustomed to one another. Among the many discussions that they had was why fewer individuals have been coming to vote on this election than the previous, notably the earlier elections in 2018. A candidate agent stated candidly:

Individuals are disillusioned as a result of they query if it’s their votes that determine the president of Afghanistan. Those already in office did little for the individuals and broke their hearts. The new ones aren’t recognized much. So the individuals ask why and for whom we should always vote. I wouldn’t have voted if I weren’t a candidate agent. I solely voted to have my finger inked so there gained’t be any issues with the marketing campaign headquarters once I get back later at the moment or early tomorrow.

Because the polling centre was not busy throughout the day, there was ample time for sometimes frank conversation amongst IEC staff, candidate brokers and observers together with in the courtyard of Masjed ul-Reza Mosque. Photograph: writer


This clearly contrasted with the 2018 parliamentary elections when it was bustling inside Masjed ul-Reza polling centre throughout the day. Photograph: writer

By 02:30 pm, half an hour earlier than polling was initially deliberate to end, of about 6,500 registered voters in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre, some 1,300 (20 per cent) had come and forged their ballots. When it comes to gender, of some three,300 male and three,200 female registered voters, about 840 males (26 per cent) and 460 ladies (14 per cent) had turned out to vote in 9 male and eight female polling stations in this polling centre, as shown respectively in charts 1 and a couple of under.

Chart 1: Complete votes for and votes forged within the 9 male polling stations (numbered 01-09) in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre by 02:30 pm, half an hour before the originally planned end of polling. Chart: writer


Chart 2: Complete votes for and votes forged in the eight feminine polling stations (numbered 10-17) in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre by 02:30 pm, half an hour before the initially planned finish of polling. Chart: writer

Round 03:00 pm, voting was extended for 2 hours regardless that there was no queue within the polling centre. An IEC worker stated light-heartedly, “Up to now, polling was extended as a result of individuals have been waiting outdoors to return in to forged their ballots. Now polling is extended in the hope individuals will come, especially those who may need been asleep within the afternoon.”

By 04:00 pm, most individuals present in the polling centre have been impatient and drained. Some candidate agents even advised IEC staff to close polling and begin counting as so few voters have been coming in. An IEC officer asked them to be patient as “another hour will even move.”

Round 04:30 pm, there was a wake-up name to those within the polling centre. A submit began circulating on Fb, particularly among customers in Herat, displaying individuals in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre: 4 candidate brokers have been sitting round, enjoying video games on a smartphone, and an IEC employee sleeping on his forearm on a table, surrounded by other staff wanting bored. Some IEC staff and candidate brokers began looking for the one that had posted this on Fb. Once they found the person, a candidate agent himself, he evaded questions about his actions, slowly sneaked out of the premises and then ran away, though he later came again and others, busy with recording vote counts, didn’t grill him. Before that, nevertheless, a heated dialogue adopted amongst IEC staff, candidate brokers and observers, one in every of whom thought this was “a nasty factor” for that candidate agent to do as it will “shame” them, the elections and especially the mosque – a place thought-about sacred.

At 05:06 pm, the gate of the mosque was finally closed and polling got here to an finish. In each polling station, IEC staff learn out the number of votes and the names of the final people who had forged their ballots. Then, three poll box locks have been broken and ballots have been taken out for counting. Ballots have been sorted by candidate numbers on the ballot paper and have been then counted for each candidate. Once this was finished, the IEC staff matched the votes to the variety of votes recorded within the BVV system and the poll papers taken from ballot paper bundles. Wasted and invalid ballot papers have been additionally recorded. Vote counts have been then recorded in outcome sheets, copies of which have been shared with candidate agents and observers. Lastly, supplies including poll papers, unused ballot paper bundles and end result sheets have been positioned into a protection bag that was then sealed. The protection bag was then put into the poll box that was locked with three new locks (P590606, P590607 and P590608 for polling station 01). Counting in both male and female polling stations ended around 07:00 pm and a truck was ready outdoors the mosque to transport the election supplies to the provincial IEC office.

IEC staff are sorting and counting ballots forged for every candidate in polling station 01 of Masjed ul-Reza polling centre after polling got here to an end around 05:00 pm. Photograph: writer

By the top of polling, in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre, of about 6,500 registered voters, some 1,570 (24 per cent) had voted, which means that round 270 more individuals (four per cent) turned out to vote in the course of the two-hour extension interval. When it comes to gender, of around three,300 male and three,200 feminine registered voters, some 980 men (30 per cent) and 590 ladies (19 per cent) had turned out to vote within the nine male and eight female polling stations, as illustrated respectively in charts 3 and 4 under. On average, 108 ballots have been forged in each male polling station and 74 in each feminine one.

Chart three: Complete votes for and votes forged within the 9 male polling stations (numbered 01-09) in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre by end of polling at about 05:00 pm. Chart: writer


Chart 4: Complete votes for and votes forged in the eight female polling stations (numbered 10-17) in Masjed ul-Reza polling centre by end of polling at about 05:00 pm. Chart: writer

Submit-polling: low turnout, technical issues and district security incidents

Because of the electrical energy and telecommunication outages described above, nobody including the provincial IEC workplace had any concept about turnout in Herat province, even by 1 October, two days or so after polling had ended. Based on this media report, there were no communications between Herat city and 11 out of Herat province’s 19 districts throughout polling day. The disruption brought on by the breakdown in energy and telecommunication providers was summed up by an IEC employees member in nearby Zenda Jan district to the west of Herat city who spoke to AAN on 1 October:

All telecommunications excluding [the public] Salaam network went down on the night time before the elections. On polling day, Salaam was additionally disconnected. Although we have been in Zenda Jan, which is near to Herat metropolis, we didn’t have any contact with the IEC workplace in Herat metropolis throughout the polling day. Our communications resumed round 01:20 pm the following day [on 29 September]. First it was Salaam that received reactivated and Roshan and Etisalat adopted go well with a few hours later within the afternoon. On E-Day, a few of the polling centres also lacked electricity to energy the units that printed the BVV barcodes. We had energy banks, however the printers might solely work by getting related to direct electrical energy present. We by some means managed to unravel this drawback by arranging for and utilizing diesel turbines in these polling centres.

In a press convention held by the provincial authorities the day after the elections (29 September), Daud Seddiqzad, provincial IEC head, stated election materials had, by then, only are available from the police districts of Herat metropolis and nearby districts of Enjil and Guzara. Even in any case election supplies reportedly arrived in the provincial IEC workplace a few days later, in an interview with the personal Herat-based Asia TV, Seddiqzad gave no turnout figures and simply stated he “[doesn’t] have any info.” He later informed Hasht-e Sobh that “it was up to the central IEC to make turnout figures out there to the media.” Equally, the top of the provincial ECC office, Fatema Baqeri, advised AAN on 2 October that it lacked any knowledge on both the numbers of polling centres open on the polling day or of people who turned out to vote.

When the central IEC in Kabul launched preliminary provincial turnout figures, together with for Herat, (2) there was elevated questioning from native observers and activists in Herat about why the provincial IEC has continued refusing to launch turnout figures with some even calling it “an effort to engineer election outcomes.” In line with the info launched by the central IEC, 253 polling centres have been open in Herat province for the 28 September 2019 presidential elections, of which 220 reported polling and the remaining 33 reported no polling. In the 220 polling centres, round 130,000 individuals (virtually 23 per cent) turned out to forged their ballots, out of a total variety of 571,000 registered voters. It was originally planned that 300 polling centres would open; after security evaluation ahead of the election, this dropped to 268. On E-Day, only 253 truly opened (details on Herat’s registered voters and polling centres in the writer’s pre-election dispatch). However, the veracity of these figures cannot but be assessed as a result of the IEC, neither the headquarters in Kabul nor its area workplace in Herat, have but began to launch outcomes per polling centre.

Going by the preliminary figures launched by the central IEC (see evaluation right here), although Herat’s turnout is the sixth largest nationwide, it’s considerably low in this election within the province, compared, say, to the chaotic parliamentary elections in 2018 by which some 340,000 individuals voted (particulars within the writer’s dispatch on Herat’s 2018 elections here). The whole provincial turnout of just about 23 per cent based mostly on preliminary figures appears not very totally different from the detailed case of the one polling centre described above that recorded an end-of-the-polling turnout of 24 per cent. This is shocking as Masjed ul-Reza is in a protected part of the town; one would anticipate it to be far greater than common.

Ali Jan Fasihi, an official of Afghanistan Civil Society Forum organisation (ACSFo), which fielded about 400 election observers in Herat province, informed AAN that their stories indicate that “votes forged in polling stations ranged from fewer than 100 to up to 140” and that “fewer ladies than males turned out to vote in Herat province.” The Masjed ul-Reza polling centre lies in the midst of what Fasihi thought was the range of voting patterns in Herat province, ie a mean of 108 votes per male and 74 per female polling station.

There’s already intense speculation on the town about why there was such a low turnout in this election in Herat province (see, as an example, this media report). Technical problems do not appear to have had a lot impression on turnout. In a dialog with AAN, the provincial ECC head, Baqeri, stated that they had registered some 490 complaints but emphasised “they are all technical and may’t lead to invalidation of all votes forged in particular polling centres. “We haven’t acquired any complaints on fraud.” Particularly, Baqeri referred to BVV units not working correctly and errors in voter lists, because of which “some individuals have been prevented from exercising their right to vote.” Nevertheless, there’s a caveat right here because as time passes, more problems might come to mild, despite the fact that the deadline for lodging complaints has already expired.

Against this, security was a significant factor protecting voters at residence to the extent that some insecure districts registered virtually no votes in any respect. Examples are Koh-e Zur in the south and Farsi within the east, where round ten individuals turned out to vote in each district, in line with an ECC observer based mostly in Koh-e Zur and an IEC employee based mostly in Zavul district which neighbours Farsi – both had talked to the IEC officer for Farsi. “The people who voted in Koh-e Zur have been the polling centre staff,” the ECC observer relayed. Each Koh-e Zur and Farsi are insecure with huge swathes of territory underneath Taleban management or influence.

Turnout assorted however was usually low in all the remaining 15 districts, excluding the 2 districts of Zir-e Koh and Pusht-e Koh in the south where there has been no voter registration. Here’s a sample of three extra districts, in response to AAN’s conversations with IEC staff based mostly in these districts.

In Pashtun Zarghun district in the east, out of round 10,000 registered voters, some 2,000 forged their ballots in 13 polling centres. In Zavul district within the south, there was a better turnout where out of about 3,500 registered voters, some 2,300 voted in two polling centres. One purpose for this is the large Shindand airbase: of those that voted within the district, some 1,000 have been army working within the airbase, stated an IEC worker in conversation with AAN. There are additionally three villages close to the airbase. Finally, in the nearby district of Zenda Jan, out of round 17,000 registered voters, some four,600 voted in 13 polling centres, an IEC worker based mostly there informed AAN:

At first, I assumed this was a low determine however once I later discussed this with my colleagues from other districts, they informed me this turnout was in reality an enormous achievement in this election for the province.

The Taleban launched a number of assaults, principally small arms hearth and rocket propelled grenades, on areas near polling centres in addition to on checkpoints, automobiles or convoys of Afghan authorities security forces on the polling day in several districts including Obeh in the east, Shindand within the south and Gulran, Kushk and Kushk-e Kohna in the north. It seems, nevertheless, that they principally aimed toward intimidating voters because their assaults were not directed at polling centres or seemingly meant to kill or injure voters and election staff. The one exception to this pattern occurred in Islam Qala, on the Iranian border in Kohsan district in the north-west, the place two motorcyclists opened hearth on civilians near a polling centre, wounding 5 of them.

For its part, the security forces, in accordance with Governor Abdul Qayyum Rahimi in a press convention a day after the elections (29 September), “quickly reacted to defeat the enemy’s conspiracies, killing about 25 armed Taleban members and injuring many others on the day of the elections.” He additionally claimed the safety forces had prevented “tens of instances of explosions and terrorist attacks on the day of the elections.” Shindand also witnessed a Resolute Help airstrike on Taleban positions as well as a violent clash between the 2 breakaway Taleban factions there; the latter incident reportedly left 20 lifeless amongst members of the two Taleban teams (AAN background on the Shindand conflict here).


The IEC was higher organised in comparison with the 2018 parliamentary poll, although there were still some technical issues associated to the operation of BVV units and the accuracy of voter lists that prevented some individuals from voting, particularly within the morning. Electrical energy was minimize off, particularly in the north, and telecommunications broke down across the province around the polling day. The Taleban seem to have interrupted electricity, however numerous theories have emerged as to why cellular networks broke down: Taleban disrupting the elections, the government wanting a information blackout of any attacks, or one or a variety of actors offering circumstances for attainable fraud.

All indications level to a significantly low turnout within the 28 September 2019 presidential elections in Herat province. One principal issue for this was insecurity. There have been a lot of clashes in several districts around polling day, leaving casualties for the Taleban and government, the two key parties to the conflict. Nevertheless, for probably the most half, the Taleban did not instantly goal polling centres and appear to have needed to warn off and scare potential voters.

Nevertheless, the most important obstacle dealing with this election in Herat was citizens’ lack of curiosity in voting. Over 50 residents of Herat metropolis including registered voters, candidate agents, observers, students, rickshaw drivers and shopkeepers advised AAN the low turnout was the individuals’s response to the ways by which Afghanistan has been governed in the last years. It showed, as they seen it, a lack of confidence, as nicely, that votes will truly decide who the subsequent president will probably be. Other residents who did forged their votes believed they might affect the end result, sending up a flicker of hope in Afghanistan’s democracy, regardless of all its failings.

Edited by Kate Clark


(1) Five candidates had earlier come for campaigning: Ashraf Ghani, Faramarz Tamanna, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Nur ul-Haq Ulumi and Sayyed Nurullah Jalili (particulars in the writer’s pre-election dispatch).

(2) Hasht-e Sobh, a personal day by day paper based mostly in Kabul, 10 Mizan 1398/2 October 2019, web page three. Comparable knowledge has been released by other media (see, for instance, this report). The newest figures released on three October 2019 may be discovered on the Fb page of one of many IEC commissioners right here.