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

Afghanistan's Stop-Start Recount

By Abdul Raqib Nuri






The election authorities in Afghanistan insist they will do their best to ensure the total recount of votes cast in the June 14 ballot meets its deadline despite frequent stalling.

An independent team was called in to conduct a recount after one of the two candidates standing in the run-off election, Abdullah Abdullah, refused to accept preliminary figures that showed he had lost to Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, and was 13 percentage points behind the latter’s 56 per cent of the vote. US Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Kabul to broker the deal just as it seemed that the electoral process might break down altogether.

Arguments about the methods used in the recount have delayed the recount three times so far. Despite this, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC), Noor Mohammad Noor, says the process is still on schedule, with ballot boxes received from 13 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and the rest expected to arrive in Kabul within a few days.

Noor explained that the 338-strong observer team overseeing the recount consisted of 65 internationals plus representatives of the two candidates and members of other Afghan organisations.

Both candidates agreed a basic check-list for conducting the recount, but they are still in dispute about some of the 16 standards that are to be applied. Noor declined to specify what points were still at issue, although he acknowledged that the wrangling was slowing things down.

“Talks are going on between the two candidates, and when they agree terms and conditions for the recount process, the IEC will consider them and approve them in line with existing electoral legislation,” he said.

Asked whether the recount would be completed within the three weeks allotted for it, Noor said the IEC would make every effort to ensure that this happened.

“The recount hasn’t gone at a slow pace because of the IEC; this has happened because of disputes between the candidates’ observers,” he added, calling for an end to the arguments.

Members of Abdullah Abdullah’s campaign have alleged that IEC staff are attempting to interfere in the recount. Noor said anyone found doing so would be brought to justice.

One of the central issues seems to a standard procedure for disqualifying votes which are found to be fraudulent.

“There are some disputes on the standards for deeming votes invalid,” Abdul Jabar Shelgari, a member of Abdullah’s team, told IWPR. “But both candidates have continued to talk so as to reach agreement soon.”

Ashna Gul Bandiwal, a member of Ashraf Ghani’s team, accused the Abdullah camp of trying to impose additional conditions in order to rule out more votes.

“Recount issues should be resolved technically. If there isn’t a technical problem, then no one has a right to invalidate the votes which people cast at risk to their lives,” he said.

Abdul Raqib Nuri is a student at Paktia 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.