KABUL (Pajhwok): Election watchdog the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) on Wednesday claimed still enough space for rigging and irregularities existed in the Independent Election Commission (IEC), voicing concern over differences between commissioners and IEC secretariat.
Naeem Ayubzada, TEFA executive head, told reporters in Kabul that political pressure on the IEC continued to mount. “Unfortunately we have received information that political pressers is building on the IEC.
He said pressure on the election body could increase with each passing day and its decisions might fall prey to the pressure and then presidential candidates would not accept the final result.
Ayubzada asked the IEC to go ahead with its activities without accepting any pressure and should protect its independence and should not rely on any internal and external source.
He asked the IEC to show patience against election teams and candidates and not succumb to any pressure.
Criticizing the IEC’s slow-paced, he said: “According to our assessment, the primary result of the Sept 28 presidential election will be announced late than schedule, which has worried us and we want the commission to strive to administer the process and announce the result as soon as possible.”
He expressed concern over differences between the IEC secretariat and commissioners and said such issues could hamper the pace of work and hoped the differences would end soon and not affect their work.
He said there was no mechanism to differentiate between clean and fraudulent votes and this was against the US Embassy claim that there was no chance of fraud in election. “It seems there is still space for fraud and rigging.”
The US Embassy in Kabul in a tweet had earlier said: “Calling on everyone to respect the time required for IEC and ECC to deliver accurate and transparent election results for brave Afghan voters. Better to be right than fast.”
The Embassy also said: “Consistency reduces fraud and defends the transparency and legitimacy of electoral process. Good to see the Joint IEC-ECC statement.”
“The mafia of fraud still exists in election commissions, if the situation continues and rigging is not controlled, we will not have acceptable results,” he said.
He also said some high profile figures threatened TEFA. “If the election commission takes sides, TEFA would make it public,” he added.
On the other hand, Naser Naserizada, in charge of TEFA monitoring, criticized the IEC’s behavior with election observers and said none of their observers were allowed to closely watch the central server system.
“We doubt even the existence of a central server inside the IEC because if it was there, our observers would have definitely seen it,” he said.
Sughra Saadat, TEFA program director, said lack of international community’s financial support, late issuance of credentials to observers, limited time for observers’ registration in IEC database, slow performance of database, disallowing TEFA observers at 13 percent of polling stations in seven provinces were problems their organization found during the presidential election.
She said not allowing TEFA observers to take photos and videos at polling stations in 18 provinces by election workers and security personnel, suspending telecom services in some provinces, disconnecting contacts with central office, high security threats in some areas and kidnapping of three TEFA observers by Taliban in Takhar were other problems.
Senior IEC officials irresponsiveness regarding problems on the Election Day and threats against TEFA observers from supporters of a number of election tickets were also among the problems they identified, she said.
“Findings of this institute show that around 5.94 percent of polling stations were opened earlier than the defined time, while 5.5 percent of the stations could not be opened on their time,” Saadat said.
She said around 79.3 percent of polling stations opened on time at 7am in the morning on the Election Day but 20.7 percent of the stations were opened hours later.
People’s turnout particularly of women was low on the Election Day and TEFA’s primary observation showed nearly two million voters, 21 percent of them women, participated in the election, she added.
TEFA asked IEC to announce the real numbers of closed and open polling stations on the election, ballot papers used and not used, biometric and non-biometric votes and the number of voters as soon as possible.
It also asked the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) to respond to complaints in coordination with other relevant organs and conduct public hearings with election oversight institutes.
Orangzib, an IEC commissioner, told a press conference today said that they had invited two foreign IT specialists to help resolve the problem in the central system of the IEC computer system and they would arrive soon.
He said the IEC was managing its activities independently and no one would be allowed to interfere in its affairs.

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