“The Challenge Period” Before the Election

by Joshua Foust on 7/19/2010

Last year, I took a rather bold move: I said the Presidential election in Afghanistan wouldn’t mean a damned thing because fraud would make it a big sham. And it was—there was no feasible way the election could have been carried off. Even the vaunted Dr. Abdullah, whom everyone in the west wants to be our new Karzai (but the Karzai before Karzai became Karzai, if you get my drift), had over 300,000 votes invalidated for fraud.

But what about the Parliamentary elections? These pose an entirely different challenge. The two Jirgas—Wolesi and Meshrano—actually have the ability to speak for their constituents, even if a lot of MPs don’t do that. Women are freely elected to hold seats. They clash—sometimes strongly—with Karzai’s decisions and policies. MPs have organized massive protests when Karzai has tried to ignore problems. The Jirgas are not even remotely perfect… but they’re one of the more functioning government organizations in Afghanistan.

Which brings us to this FEFA report on next month’s elections. FEFA, the Free&Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, is an Afghan NGO devoted to monitoring and enforcing where it can transparent democratic processes in Afghanistan. They’ve been tracking how the election preparations have been shaping, how the vetting process for candidates has proceeded, and so on. A friend sent me their latest observation report (which is not yet online).

FEFA Challenge Period Observation Report July 2010

The report contains some sobering revelations. Among them:

  • Security hindered observers in some places, in lots more they faced difficulty in even traveling, as well as difficulties with communication.
  • “Insecurity and the threat of violence created a climate of fear during the challenge process” and made observation everywhere difficult but the North (which had its own trouble spots).
  • There were attacks on individuals involved in the electoral process in Badghis, Farah, Helmand, Nangarhar, and Paktika during the six week challenge period.
  • Nation-wide observers reported intimidation and the threat of violence.
  • Many candidates face outstanding complaints of land grabbing, murder, and war crimes.
  • The vetting of candidates was seriously flawed.

FEFA, the report states, is “deeply concerned about the lack of transparency demonstrated by the electoral and vetting institutions and consequent opportunities for bias and violations of candidates’ political rights.” In other words, the entire process is deeply flawed. I highly suggest reading the entire report—it’s barely seven pages long.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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