Afghan Youth Debates: Election Fraud Accusations Dismissed

Afghan Youth Debates: Election Fraud Accusations Dismissed

Academics and political analysts in the southeastern province of Paktia have insisted that Afghanistan's June 14 run-off vote was not compromised by excessive fraud.

Experts told undergraduates at an IWPR debate in the province’s main town, Gardez, that the critical second round of the presidential election was largely free and fair, and that any allegations of corruption would be investigated thoroughly.

Since the ballot, presidential contender Abdullah Abdullah has alleged significant amounts of ballot-stuffing. Last week, his campaign team announced it was severing all contact with the election bodies charged with overseeing the vote. His subsequent decision to reopen a dialogue only came after the resignation of Zia ul-Haq Amarkhel, the head of the secretariat of the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Mohammad Yusuf Molatar, the provincial head of education at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights , told students, "All observer organisations as well as the media accurately reported events on election day. Everyone involved fulfilled their responsibilities, and I do not think that large-scale fraud occurred."

Khaled Habib, a journalism lecturer at Paktia University, also addressed the June 17 debate, and agreed that the second round had been a success. He said that while there would inevitably be some cases of fraud, the process had generally been transparent and the result, whatever it proved to be, should stand.

"The public raised their voices and proudly cast their votes in the second round," he said. "Their votes should therefore not be disrespected."

Abdullah, a former foreign minister, is standing against Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank executive, in the race to succeed President Hamed Karzai, who is not eligible to stand for a third term. If all goes smoothly, this will be the first time an Afghan national leader has been elected in a peaceful transition of power.

Recent tensions, particularly in the nation's capital Kabul, have led some analysts to wonder whether due process will be observed. Abdullah's cry of foul play, combined with his threats to refuse to recognise the result of the vote, has sparked a number of demonstrations.

In the western province of Herat, hundreds of his followers staged a protest, chanting “death to the IEC” and “fraudsters must be tried”.
Rahmatullah Rahmat, a student, asked the debate about the role of the election bodies now that fraud had been alleged. The Independent Election Complaints Commission (IECC) is responsible for handling such claims.

“Complaints can and will be addressed when there is valid evidence,” Habib replied. “Many complaints are made verbally, without any evidence to support them.”

Mohammad Khan Raihan is a student at Paktia University and an IWPR trainee. 

This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.

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