Afghanistan's Election Turmoil

Despite the increased level of violent attacks from the Taliban in the weeks prior, Afghanistan successfully held national elections in October. However, that achievement of democracy is under threat, as complaints have arisen over fraud allegations, especially in the Kabul Province.  

A dispute has arisen between Afghanistan’s top election bodies over the October results of the parliamentary election in Kabul. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Complaints Commission (AIECC), declared all votes cast in Kabul province to be invalid, citing massive fraud and violations of election law. The Independent Election Commission (IEC), the other election body, stated that it was going to ignore the AIECC’s decision (which would ordinarily require holding a new election within seven days) and carry on with the certification of the results of Kabul’s vote.

The AIECC announced on Thursday, December 6th the removal of five officials from the IEC, also announcing that they would be fined $1,333 each and could face further action. The IEC rejected the move as politically motivated, and IEC chief Gulujan Badi Sayaad said his commission will continue counting the votes, and a legal response to the AIEEC decision would be coming soon.

Baktash Siawash, a member of Parliament from Kabul, has questioned the ruling. He claimed that the complaints body invalidated the vote before the preliminary tally was even announced, and that the AIECC appeared to single out Kabul, and ignored similar complaints in other provinces. With Kabul casting 1.2 million votes, more than any other province, by invalidating those vote the commission has impacted the legitimacy of the whole election, Mr. Siawash believes.

This political instability comes at an especially poor time, as US negotiators land in Afghanistan in another attempt to engage in talks with the Taliban to bring about a satisfactory conclusion to the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in Afghanistan for his third trip since September, on a regional tour to build consensus for the Taliban to meet face to face with the Afghan government.

The process of negotiations has been made even more difficult by the fact that the Taliban have so far refused to enter negotiations with the Afghanistan government. Their reasoning is that the current government is just a puppet of the United States, so they refuse to engage with what they view as a proxy, choosing to only negotiate directly with the United States. However, Afghanistan President Ghani has long made clear that he believes that the peace process must involve the Afghani people, and as the people’s representative his administration should be present for the talks. He has also staked his political future as leader of the country on being able to deliver peace to Afghanistan.

 To make matters worse, several political parties have announced that they do not believe that President Ghani’s negotiating team can successfully engage with the Taliban. As a result, these political parties have decided to form their own negotiating teams, complicating the peace process and potentially undermining the US and President Ghani’s attempts.

Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters