Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghan Youth Debates: Election Fraud Alleged in Khost

By Mohammad Adel

Fraud marred election day at polling stations across Khost, an IWPR-organised debate heard on April 10.

Panelists and participants at an event held at Khost’s university recounted incidents including ballot-stuffing and multiple voting.

Civil society activist Qamar Khan Kamran said that eight ballot boxes disappeared from the village of Pirbadshah, and as a result voting started at 12pm instead of the scheduled 7am on April 5.

“It is not clear who has the boxes and in whose favour will they be stuffed,” he said, adding that boxes had gone missing from many villages.

Kamran also noted another anomaly. “The female vote was shown to be high in areas where they never left their homes. It’s obvious that votes were cast fraudulently on behalf of women,” he said.

The deputy head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Khost, Sahebuddin Zadran, accepted there had been a number of problems on election day.

He said that all complaints received from polling stations had been forwarded to the Electoral Complaints Commission, and all fake voter IDs had been logged and sent to Kabul.

“We will assess all the boxes which are suspicious. People need not be worried,” he said.

Zadran said multiple agencies were involved in monitoring the polls.

“We delegated the authority to observe to FEFA [Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan], the candidates’ own observers, and members of the public and had told them to report to us if they saw any fraud happening,” Zadran said.

Qadirollah Lakanwal, FEFA head in Khost, said that although incidents of fraud had been fewer than in previous elections, the process had not been trouble-free.

FEFA had up to 60 observers filing reports from across Khost, and based on their assessments, Lakanwal concluded that the elections in Khost were 80 per cent transparent.

This figure was disputed by others taking part in the debate, who said they themselves had witnessed numerous cases of fraud.

One audience member, Mohammadollah, said, “At one site in… Khost city, 16 government employees, [election] commission personnel and an observer working for one of the candidates stuffed ballot boxes in favour of a particular candidate. No one prevented them.”

Another participant, Abdol Khaleq, said, “I saw individuals in Azadi Mina in Khost city who had voted three times. They cleaned off the dye [used to stain voters’ fingers] with a special substance and voted repeatedly.”

Responding to these comments, Zadran said, “I too have already said that fraud occurred, but not to such an extent as to undermine our elections. Fraud will be addressed and the clean votes will be separated from the invalid ones. Those accused of fraud will be punished.”

Mohammad Adel 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.