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Afghanistan’s 2019 Elections (5): Slow preparations for a high-stake election

An IEC registration officer registers a voter at Naderia High School in Kabul as the IEC launched a 22-day top up voter registration across the country on 8 June 2019. Photo: IEC Facebook page


An IEC registration officer registers a voter at Naderia High Faculty in Kabul because the IEC launched a 22-day prime up voter registration throughout the country on 8 June 2019. Photograph: IEC Facebook web page

The Unbiased Election Fee (IEC) has announced the new electoral calendar and started a 22-day prime up voter registration course of across Afghanistan. The announcement of the electoral calendar involved a number of key selections, including that the IEC will maintain solely the presidential vote on 28 September 2019, that it’ll not change the electoral system forward of the election and that it’ll not use biometric know-how for the current voter registration. With these selections, the IEC has now officially forsaken its unique plan to also maintain provincial council elections throughout the country in addition to the pending Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghazni. AAN researcher Ali Yawar Adili (with input from Martine van Bijlert) provides an summary of an important selections, activities and reactions as the IEC struggles to organize for a high-stakes election underneath troublesome circumstances. A brand new, up to date electoral calendar is annexed.

The IEC declares the electoral calendar for presidential elections only

On 29 Might 2019, the IEC introduced the detailed electoral calendar and said that it will not be attainable to hold the already overdue provincial council elections and the Ghazni Wolesi Jirga elections along with the presidential election “because of shortage of time.”(1) IEC chair Hawa Alam Nuristani stated that the date for the other elections can be introduced after the assessment of technical and monetary issues, and taking time into consideration.

The new electoral calendar was revealed inside the authorized deadline prescribed in article 71 of the electoral regulation – no less than 120 days earlier than election day – and was an adjustment of an earlier calendar that had been revealed after the election was moved from the initially planned date of 20 April to 20 July (AAN report right here) and is predicated on a second delay that moved the election date from 20 July to 28 September (AAN report here).

The Electoral Help Group (ESG), made up of the elections’ fundamental donors, welcomed the IEC’s determination, saying: “Whilst the ESG absolutely acknowledges the principled significance of holding all Afghan elections in a timely style, the IEC’s determination prioritizing the holding of the presidential election on 28 September is important given the very tight timeline and the practical challenges.” The group stated that holding only the presidential election would enable the IEC “to concentrate its assets together with personnel and logistics in managing the method.” (2)

The choice simplifies the preparation for the upcoming presidential election – which shall be troublesome sufficient by itself – nevertheless it additionally sidesteps several controversies, some of which have to be faced in the future. These embrace the persevering with demands that the electoral system be overhauled (which had been included within the new electoral legislative decree), the shifting selections on whether to make use of biometrics within the elections and the question of what to do with the pending Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghazni.

The announcement of the electoral calendar additionally signalled the start of the highest up voter registration train that provides voters with the chance to register for the primary time or to right or replace their registration.

A 22-day voter registration and display of voters listing

On eight June 2019, the IEC commissioners formally launched the highest up voter registration process in Naderia Excessive Faculty in PD 2 of Kabul city. IEC chair Hawa Alam Nuristan stated the IEC was dedicated to finishing up the top up voter registration in 33 provinces and to doing a full voter registration in Ghazni province. Nuristani additional stated that the IEC had planned to carry out the top up voter registration at 458 centres (see the listing) but had found after the security assessment that they might activate solely 432 of them; the remaining 26 centres wouldn’t open for registration (see the video right here and media report here). She did not specify which centres they might not open or during which districts. (3)

In line with the IEC factsheet (no 4) revealed on three June, the next five categories of individuals can register on this spherical of voter registration:

  • those who will probably be 18 years previous by election day (28 September 2019)
  • those that have returned to the nation lately
  • those that haven’t registered before
  • these whose names have been registered incorrectly or who’ve lost their tazkeras (ID cards) or have broken theirs to the extent that their primary particulars will not be legible
  • those that have moved to another electoral constituency

The IEC factsheet stated that voter registration centres can be open daily for 22 days, including Friday, from 7 o’clock in the morning to 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Voters have been requested to go to the voter registration centres in individual and present their unique tazkera “as the only credible nationwide document” for identification. The factsheet stated that each one kinds of the tazkera can be legitimate (presumably referring to the totally different forms of paper and electronic tazkeras) and that each registration centre would have separate female and male stations, with feminine staff deployed to female registration stations to make it simpler for eligible ladies to register to vote.

The IEC also introduced that the prevailing voter lists can be revealed in all polling centres in the course of the voter registration interval (from 8 to 29 June 2019) so voters can verify whether or not they’re registered appropriately or at all. If not, they will right their registration by presenting their unique tazkera with the voter registration affirmation. If a voter has relocated to another electoral constituency, they will re-register there to determine their new location.

Some observer organisations have asked for cellular groups to journey to safe villages, as they consider that the highest up registration in 432 centres won’t be adequate. As an example, Habibullah Shinwari, the top of programmes at the Elections and Transparency Watch Organisation of Afghanistan (ETWA), advised media that as a consequence of financial problems and conventional cultures within the villages, many women wouldn’t have the ability to travel to the district centres for registration. He steered that cellular teams be dispatched to the villages to register potential voters, especially ladies.

Public outreach gap?

President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani welcomed the launch of the highest up voter registration and referred to as on eligible voters “to actively participate in this nationwide course of” (see his assertion released apparently on the third day of the registration). He additionally instructed all related establishments, particularly the security businesses, to completely cooperate with the IEC “for the success of the method.” Earlier on 8 June 2019, First Vice-President Common Abdul Rashid Dostum had also issued a press release, calling on his celebration activists and members to hold rallies and gatherings at the district and village ranges to encourage individuals to participate in the voter registration (see right here in Dari).

Second Vice-President Danesh also welcomed the beginning of the exercise as a “good and promising step” while referring to the “unsuccessfulness” of voter registration for the 2018 parliamentary elections that, he claimed, had “led to an irreparable decline within the turnout of the individuals.”

Nevertheless, indicators are that preparations may be lagging. On 9 June, the second day after the launch, Muhammad Abdullah, one of the IEC commissioners, expressed regret in a quick Fb and Twitter submit that the IEC had not been capable of approve and implement the outreach plan. He stated that a prime up voter registration operation and not using a widespread awareness campaign was like “praying without ablution.” Two days later, on 11 June, probably in an try at injury control, the IEC posted particulars of its public outreach campaign, saying that the next campaign supplies had been sent to the provinces and have been being distributed by its public outreach campaigners:

  • 14,000 posters in two codecs in both nationwide languages of the nation
  • 14,000 reality sheets in three codecs in both national languages
  • 70,000 leaflets in four codecs in both nationwide languages
  • 411 billboards to be installed in applicable places in all provinces

The IEC also posted the video clips it used for public outreach in three languages: Pashto, Dari and Uzbek. A deputy spokesman for the IEC, Zabihullah Sadat, admitted to Etilaat Roz that as a consequence of a scarcity of time and assets, they might not begin the public outreach prior to 8 June. (4)

Election issues in Ghazni

Along with the nation-wide prime up voter registration, the IEC launched a full-blown new voter registration in Ghazni (see IEC factsheet (no 3) revealed on three June 2019 here). This was mandatory after controversies over whether or not or not the province ought to be divided into smaller constituencies in the run-up to the 2018 Wolesi Jirga election had made voter registration in Ghazni all but unattainable.

It started on 26 April 2018, simply 13 days into the primary part of final yr’s voter registration, which was happening in all provincial capitals. Protestors shut down the IEC provincial office in Ghazni by pitching a tent at its gate and starting a sit-in. The protestors – from numerous elements of the province (mainly Pashtuns, but in addition Tajiks and Sayyeds) – demanded that the province be divided into smaller electoral constituencies to raised ensure balanced ethnic illustration. Their demand originated from the disputed 2010 parliamentary election when all 11 Ghazni seats have been gained by Hazaras, leaving other ethnic teams, particularly the Pashtuns, with out illustration.

Two months later, on 25 June 2018, after voter registration had already ended, the IEC decided to “exceptionally” cut up the province into three separate parliamentary constituencies. The decision convinced the protesters to permit the IEC office to reopen on 27 June 2018, but sparked a counter-protest with quite a few Hazara residents who staged their very own sit-in close to the IEC office. They demanded that the IEC revoke its determination to split the province which they referred to as “completely unlawful” and on 1 July 2018 they shut down the IEC office in Ghazni metropolis again (see AAN’s earlier reporting concerning the protest and counter-protest right here).

In consequence, the IEC was unable to roll out the voter registration to the districts and villages and was pressured to utterly drop the vote in Ghazni (see AAN’s background here).

On 7 August 2018, the National Security Council (NSC), held a “comprehensive and detailed” dialogue, attended by the then IEC chairman, on the best way to still maintain parliamentary (and district council) elections in Ghazni in view of the IEC proposal to delay them. The meeting concluded that “extra technical and practical studies and consultations have been required” and requested the IEC to present options. Nothing more was heard on the matter until Might 2019 – when the need to current an electoral calendar pressured a choice.

On 22 Might 2019, the National Security Council tasked Second Vice-President Sarwar Danesh and first Deputy Chief Government Muhammad Khan to current a brand new proposal to divide Ghazni into electoral constituencies. It also instructed the Unbiased Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG) and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to completely cooperate so the proposal would mirror all standards (see the Palace’s report here). While Danesh, in response to one in every of his advisers, was wanting into two options – either two or three constituencies – the sitting MPs and their supporters demanded to both keep the only constituency or to truly divide Ghazni into two separate provinces. (5)

The choice to hold only presidential elections this yr, as introduced on 29 Might, took a few of the strain off the controversy, however the opposing positions should affect preparations for the presidential elections.

On eight June, simply as voter registration was to be launched, the media reported that some (primarily Pashtun) Ghazni residents and activists warned that if Wolesi Jirga elections were not held as properly, they might not permit the presidential elections to happen (see also this press convention). A delegation of Ghazni “tribal elders” threatened that if their calls for – smaller constituencies and Wolesi Jirga elections now – weren’t met, they might not vote within the presidential election. The IEC explained to them that they meant to hold the three units of elections at the similar time, but have been unable to take action “on account of scarcity of time and financial problems” and that they might maintain the provincial council and Ghazni elections after the presidential election. It isn’t clear whether or not this has satisfied the protestors or whether they may increase the difficulty again.

Voter registration goes slowly. A deputy spokesman for the IEC, Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, informed media on 14 June that only 78 out of the planned 247polling centres have thus far opened in Ghazni and the remaining remained closed as a result of insecurity. (The IEC had originally deliberate to carry out voter registration at 406 polling centres in Ghazni (see the record here) but had determined after security assessments that it might open only 247 of them).

In the meantime, the sitting Ghazni MPs who have been elected in 2010 remain in workplace. (6) Though the IEC has dropped Ghazni elections once more, the dispute over whether to divide the province into smaller constituencies stays unresolved. It isn’t clear whether or not sure groups will use the postponement as a purpose to impede the presidential election in the province.

A timeline of other IEC selections and actions

The pending Ghazni election was not the only controversy the IEC needed to cope with whereas finalising its electoral calendar. There was additionally the still open difficulty of the electoral system. In line with article two of the legislative decree that had endorsed amendments to the electoral regulation in February 2019 (see here), elections have been to be held based mostly on the so-called Multi-Dimensional Illustration (MDR) electoral system. Inside one month of beginning its work, the IEC, in cooperation with political events and election-related civil society organisations, was alleged to present a proposal, including amendments to the electoral regulation,  to the cupboard for approval (AAN’s reporting here).

Changing the electoral system has been a long-standing demand of, particularly, the political events who consider that the current system (Single Non-Transferrable Vote or SNTV) disfavours political social gathering organisation. MDR is likely one of the newer various methods which were put forward. It allows for both political celebration and individual candidatures, however includes a sophisticated vote tally and transfer system (see AAN background here).

On 2 April 2019, the IEC issued a press release saying that based mostly on consultative meetings with political parties and election-related civil society organisations, two observations have been to be made concerning the multidimensional illustration (MDR) system:

First, various the political celebration and civil society representatives had demanded the “Sainte-Lague” components, whereas quite a lot of others had demanded “the most important remainder” formulation to allocate the seats.

Second, quite a few political celebration representatives “didn’t show that much curiosity” in altering the current SNTV (Single Non-Transferable Vote) system into MDR, and that solely “around four to 5 political events had insisted on the implementation of MDR within the Wolesi Jirga, provincial council, district council and village council elections.” (Right now the IEC had not but decided to carry solely the one election in September 2019). The IEC then concluded that, resulting from quite a few constraints, the implementation of MDR within the upcoming provincial council elections was not possible. (7)

A second problem was using biometric know-how. The February 2019 amendments to the electoral regulation included a provision that the IEC was “duty-bound to take measures” to use “digital techniques and biometric know-how in a protected method” (for extra on the legislative decree,see AAN’s earlier report here). On 28 April 2019, the IEC signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Statistics and Info Authority (ASIA), tasking it to offer the IEC with biometric units, software and training. Based on IEC chair Nuristani, the know-how can be used through the top-up voter registration exercise and to gather the biometric knowledge of voters who had already registered in 2018. On 7 Might 2019, Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, a deputy spokesman for the IEC, advised the media that the procedure on the way to use biometric know-how had been finalised.

On 16 Might, the media obtained a replica of an IEC choice that stated that paragraph 19 of the electoral regulation was unimaginable to implement, but that the IEC would nonetheless use biometric know-how on election day. The specifics are unclear, however the IEC intends the units to be furnished with digital voter lists so they can verify voters on election day and hopes to configure the units so they can switch photographs of results sheets to the national knowledge centre. Prime up registration, nevertheless, is presently being carried out manually.

Third, on 26 Might, two worldwide commissioners have been launched to the IEC: Ivilina Aleksieva-Robinson who has served as the chairperson of the Central Election Fee of Bulgaria and Ahmed Issack Hassan who, based on his own introductory remarks at the IEC, has served as the chairperson of the Unbiased Electoral and Boundaries Commission of Kenya(see their bios right here). The appointments are in accordance with an amendment to the electoral regulation that sets forth that the government, in an understanding with the United Nations, can appoint two international election specialists as non-voting members of the IEC for the aim of “additional transparency within the election course of.” There was an identical provision for the ECC in the 2016 electoral regulation that has been retained. On the time, the government didn’t appoint any international members to the ECC for the 2018 elections, however now, on 29 Might, two non-voting international members have been introduced to the ECC: Charlotte Osei, the previous chairperson of Ghana’ Electoral Commission, and Neel Kantha Uprety, the former chief electoral commissioner of Nepal,.

On 1 June 2019, lastly, IEC chair Nuristani disclosed that 5,356 out of 7,385 listed polling centres in 34 provinces would open, and the remaining 2,002 centres would have to remain closed on election day, representing 27 per cent of all polling centres. Based on the IEC statistics, most of those centres are in Farah (174 out of 224 centres), Kunduz (122 out of 220), Ghazni (159 out of 406), Helmand (150 out of 247), Jawzjan (69 out of 129), Zabul (57 out of 100) and Sar-e Pul (57 out of 149). Head of the IEC secretariat Habibul RahmanNang informed the media that the IEC had no plan to open those centres as that they had too little time for the highest up voter registration and wouldn’t have the ability to send election material there (media report here and right here).

Wanting forward: One set of high-stake elections amidst essential sluggish preparations

The IEC has determined to hold only one set of elections – presidential – and has launched into one among its most essential actions in preparation: voter registration. The stakes are immense. The prevailing voter registry is in dire want of verification and correction. As AAN wrote in considered one of its election studies (“New voter registry too good to be true” ), “a assessment of the registration statistics released by the Unbiased Election Fee (IEC) – disaggregated by province and by gender – reveal suspicious anomalies.” It’s questionable whether the straightforward act of displaying lists and asking voters to confirm and replace their own registration will suffice, notably since it’s unclear whether or not individuals, within the absence of enough public outreach, will take some time to verify the lists. The train additional seems to be affected by insecurity, notably in Ghazni where a full voter registration is supposed to take place.

The IEC says it’s determined to make use of an improved model of the Biometric Voter Verification (BVV) system that was used within the 2018 parliamentary elections. The design and implementation of such a system – now additionally together with electronic voter lists and the web transfer of outcomes sheets – seems an extremely tall order, notably given the chaos that ensued in the course of the 2018 elections (see AAN’s report “Election Day Two: A primary hand account of the trials and chaos of second-day voting” here). The IEC has moreover not yet finalised its laws and procedures for the BVV system. Any reversals or late selections may again result in confusion and improper use of the know-how – or a last minute determination to drop it, as was carried out with the meant use of BVV within the voter registration.

The listing of deliberate polling centres – from which already 27 per cent of the centres has been dropped – is more likely to be subject to further closures if the security state of affairs in sure areas continues to deteriorate. The narrowing down of the variety of polling centres signifies that in some areas voters will need to face considerable distances – and dangers – to forged their vote. This might have an effect on the turnout, particularly since there are not any simultaneous local elections that would encourage voters to go to the polls based mostly on their native favours or disfavours.

Lastly, the indefinite postponement of the provincial council and Ghazni Wolesi Jirga elections – each lengthy overdue – erodes the credibility of Afghanistan’s elected local institutions. It also additional reduces the variety of opportunities for individuals to forged their votes in elections that matter to them and that have been envisaged in the constitution – from seven to only two: the presidency and the parliament.

 

Edited by Martine van Bijlert

 

(1) Article 138 of the constitution establishes provincial councils in every province and says that the members of the provincial councils must be elected for a time period of 4 years. Nevertheless, in follow, only the second provincial council elections, which have been held in 2009 along with the presidential election, adhered to the four-year time period (the primary provincial councils have been held in 2005 together with the parliamentary elections). The third provincial council elections have been held in 2014, again along with the presidential election, and one yr after their constitutional time period had ended. The fourth elections, which should have been held in 2018, have been postponed indefinitely. The present provincial councils have already served for five years.

(2) Earlier that month, on 19 Might 2019, IEC chair Nuristani had already advised the media that US State Division official Alice Wells once they met IEC commissioners on 13 Might had requested them to carry only the presidential elections and that the IEC rejected it (see here). On the identical day, Ariana News quoted a source from the IEC saying that UN SRSG (Special Consultant to the Secretary-Common) TadamichiYamamoto had informed the IEC that “Your determination [to hold more than one set of elections] is respectable, however for us solely presidential elections are essential.” He reportedly emphasised that the IEC solely had the capacity to hold one election, that their future and the way forward for the IEC rested on the presidential elections, that they might be judged by the presidential elections and that holding three elections can be tantamount to suicide (see here and right here).

(3) The IEC web site, nevertheless, quotes Nuristani as saying that the highest up voter registration can be carried out in 458 centres in 33 provinces (and voter registration in Ghazni in 247 centres) – making no point out of the centres that will not open. It also quotes Habibul Rahman Nang, the top of the IEC secretariat, as saying that “in coordination with the security forces, material might be despatched to 458 prime voter registration centres and 247 common registration centres in Ghazni province; the material has been absolutely transferred to 408 of them” (see right here).

(four) Etilaat Roz additionally reported that, in accordance with IEC sources, the prolonged procurement process for the television and radio advertisements supported by the UN had been a purpose for delay in launching the general public outreach (see here).

(5) The sitting Ghazni MPs – at present all Hazara – sent (see right here and right here) a letter to Vice-President Danesh on 23 Might 2019 asking for elections on the provincial degree in Ghazni “based mostly on the earlier regular apply” to stop “a double-standard remedy” and to watch the “precept of equality of citizen rights.” They stated that if the federal government for any cause was keen to divide Ghazni into smaller constituencies, it should first create a separate province (Jaghori), following the traditional follow to “first establish two provinces after which hold elections in these two provinces.”

Danesh, in flip, emphasised the necessity for proportionality of MPs based mostly on each population measurement and truthful illustration, indicating the need for a solution that may ensure illustration of various ethnic groups from the province.

On 28 Might, some Ghazni MPs posted a photograph of a press release signed by “around 80 MPs” in help of the place of the Ghazni MPs to both maintain elections in a province-wide single constituency or divide the province into two separate provinces.

(6) An MP from Ghazni advised AAN that when President Ghani inaugurated the new parliament on 26 April 2019, there had been an try to stop Ghazni MPs from attending the inauguration of the National Meeting and thus depart province’s seats vacant. However Chief Government Abdullah, the Supreme Courtroom, the Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Structure, the IEC and the ECC, in line with the MP, had all argued that the Ghazni MPs ought to stay in office until new MPs have been elected. That is in accordance with article 104 of the electoral regulation that states when an election is just not held in a constituency, the previous MPs can proceed to work till the election is held (see AAN’s earlier reporting here).

(7) Some celebration officers reacted to this. As an example, Muhammad Nateqi, the appearing head of Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami Mardom-e Afghanistan, complained on his Fb web page that there was no will and intention [with the IEC] to implement MDR. He predicted that “tomorrow we’ll all witness that they’ll reject know-how underneath whimsical pretexts” and blamed UNAMA for being “additionally an accomplice on this concern.” In any other case, he stated, over almost two months there had been no political social gathering against MDR and none had been found in the meetings in the Palace, “but at the moment the IEC has found anti-MDR events.”

 

Annex: The newest electoral calendar revealed by the IEC (the earlier calendar is annexed to this AAN piece here).

Translated by AAN from the Dari unique, with the Gregorian dates.

No Activity Begin Date Finish date Gregorian Date Period
1 Candidate nomination 1/10/1397 30/10/1397 22 December 2018 to 20 January 2019 30
2 Publication of preliminary listing of candidates 16/11/1397 16/11/1397 5 February 2019 1
3 Publication of ultimate listing of candidates four/2/1298 4/2/1398 24 April 2019 1
4 Publication of electoral calendar 9/3/1398 9/3/1398 30 Might 2019 1
5 Implementing public outreach campaign plan concerning the prime up voter registration and voter registration in Ghazni 16/3/1398 eight/four/1398 6–29 June 2019 24
6 Prime up voter registration 18/three/1398 8/4/1398 8–29 June 2019 22
7 Voter registration in Ghazni 18/3/1398 eight/four/1398 8–29 June 2019 22
8 Publication of voter record for correction 18/3/1398 eight/four/1398 8–29 June 2019 22
9 Issuing accreditation to observers and candidate brokers 6/2/1398 30/6/1398 26 April-21 September 2019 149
10 Publication of ultimate voter listing 28/four/1398 28/four/1398 19 July 2019 1
11 Design and printing of ballots; arrival of delicate materials at the IEC 29/four/1398 6/6/1398 20 July-28 August 2019 40
12 Presidential campaign interval 6/5/1398 3/7/1398 28 July-25 September 2019 60
13 Packing sensitive materials 6/6/1398 20/6/1398 28 August-11 September 2019 14
14 Transferring sensitive materials from the IEC HQ to provincial workplaces eight/6/1398 22/6/1398 30 August-13 September 2019 14
15 Transferring sensitive material from the provincial workplaces to polling centres 22/6/1398 5/7/1398 13–27 September 2019 14
16 Silence interval 4/7/1398 5/7/1398 26–27 September 2019 2
17 Polling day 6/7/1398 28 September 2019 1
18 Filing complaints relating to presidential election day 6/7/1398 7/7/1398 28- 29 September 2019 2
19 Addressing complaints concerning the presidential election day 8/7/1398 22/7/1398 30 September-14 October 2019 15
20 End result tabulation 6/7/1398 26/7/1398 28 September-18 October 2019 20
21 Announcement of preliminary presidential election results 27/7/1398 27/7/1398 19 October 2019 1
22 Filing objections to the preliminary presidential election results 27/7/1398 29/7/1398 19–21 October 2019 three
23 Addressing objections to the preliminary presidential election results 29/7/1398 14/eight/1398 21 October-5 November 2019 15
24 Sending the final determination of the ECC 15/eight/1398 15/8/1398 6 November 2019 1
25 Announcement of final presidential results 16/eight/1398 16/8/1398 7 November 2019 1
26 Attainable presidential run off 2/9/1398 2/9/1398 23 November 2019 1