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Afghan Youth Debates: Ballot Fraud "Minimal" in Khost – Electoral Staff

By Rahim Gul Nayel






As an independently-overseen recount of votes cast in the Afghan presidential run-off continues at national level, the results are also being dissected in each individual province.

In Khost in the southeast, questions were asked about voter figures in the days after the June 14 ballot, held to decide whether Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai would be president after an indecisive result on April 5.

Abdullah refused to accept preliminary figures that show Ashraf Ghani coming out as the winner. He singled out Khost, where he said the Independent Election Commission (IEC) counted more than 400,000 ballots cast, even though there were only 300,000 people registered as eligible to vote in the province. In the first round, the IEC recorded a turnout of just 113,000 in Khost. (See Afghanistan: Khost Locals Contest "Inflated Turnout" Claim.)

Aside from the discrepancy with the April turnout, Abdullah’s team argues that the figure of 400,000 voters is inconceivable given that 2012-13 statistics show Khost with a total population of 550,000. However, provincial officials have come back with a total figure of over 1.3 million residents, provided by the rural development ministry, and IEC officials say they distributed more than 650,000 voting cards in Khost.

“Holding an election with such a great turnout is admirable,” provincial IEC chief Shafiq Ahmad Wafa told IWPR.

Similar concerns about turnout have been raised in Khost’s neighbours Paktika and Paktia, as well as in Laghman, Kunar and Nuristan provinces to the east.

The Independent Election Complaint Commission (IECC), the body tasked with investigating alleged ballot fraud, says 57 complaints have been filed in relation to Khost, 37 of them with its provincial branch and the rest submitted to its headquarters in the capital Kabul.

IECC provincial director Khanzada Khan says that only two of the complaints are classed as “category A”, the most serious of three groups and the only one deemed likely to affect actual results.

That meant that Khost experienced no significant cases of fraud on election day, he said.

Juma Gul Hamdard, regional head of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), an election monitoring group, says he had observers posted at every polling station in Khost province, and they did not record deliberate wrongdoing.

“We received 18 reports, the most important reports of which concerned ballot papers running out sooner than expected,” he told IWPR.

This reporter spoke to voters from 12 of Khost’s 13 districts, including ones where ongoing security problems, but no one described ballot-rigging or other concerns.

Rahim Gul Nayel is a student at Khost 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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