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

Election “Cattle Market” for Delegates

By Ezatullah Zawab in Jalalabad and Hafizullah Gardesh and Farida Nekzad in Kabul (ARR No. 86, 16-Dec-03)
By IWPR

"The election process was like the animal market in Bati Kot, candidates used power and money and the voters were in an atmosphere of fear," said Latif Mal, who had represented Nangarhar province at the Emergency Loya Jirga.


Mohammad Hanif Mujaddidi, who also attended last year’s gathering on behalf of the mountainous province bordering Pakistan, agreed, "The candidates were using power and money and few people were elected as candidates for the Constitutional Loya Jirga who would not be called warlords."


During the elections in Jalalabad for Nangahar candidates, elder Haska Mena said that money was being blatantly bandied about – though not necessarily buying candidates all the support they might have imagined.


"Selling votes is like selling your conscience but here a number of delegates took money from seven or eight of the candidates promising each ‘I will give you my vote’," he said.


Five hundred delegates altogether are attending the Loya Jirga in Kabul to decide a new constitution for the country. Of these 344 have been elected as regional delegates by local representatives who attended the emergency assembly.


According to the rules of the election, military commanders, ministers, governors and government officials were not eligible.


A senior Jalalabad police officials insisted that they had worked hard to help ensure a fair process, “We would allow only those into the polling centres who were voters or were assisting with the process as well as officials and journalists."


But there have been reports of intimidation. Among the most sinister concerned Humaira Rafi, head of the Women’s Peace Group in Nangarhar, who IWPR that she had withdrawn her candidacy for the reserved women’s seats after receiving threats.


"The day before the election some armed men came and told me to [stay away]," she said.


Another female candidate, representing Logar, just southwest of Kabul, reported a similar experience. “ Two days before the election there were night letters [threatening leaflets delivered at night],” said Anahita, who directs a youth project.


However, she added that when she was threatened she received good support from the local police chief and stood her ground to go on to be elected to attend the gathering in Kabul.


Spokesman for the constitution commission Abdul Ghafoor Lewal agreed that there had been some breaches of the rules, but said that it was satisfied with 95 per cent of the elections.


Firm action had been taken where problems had been found.


"A number of commanders nominated themselves as candidates in Laughman, Sherberghan, Jowzjan, Ghor, Badkhshan provinces so we re-held elections. We discovered two forged [voter] cards in Badakhshan and held the elections from scratch," he said.


And despite all the reports of problems found by IWPR in the Nangarhar province, the commission’s manager for eastern regions, Professor Mohammad Ismail Yoon, said that he was pleased that the elections had passed peacefully.


David Singh, a senior media relations officer with the UN , agreed that the process had gone well over all, saying that lessons had been learned from the Emergency Loya Jirga.


Ezatullah Zawab, Hafizullah Gardesh and Farida Nekzad are participating in IWPR’s Loya Jirga reporting project.