Parwan's On-Off Candidate

Right up to election day, it has been unclear whether one popular candidate is actually in the running.

Parwan's On-Off Candidate

Right up to election day, it has been unclear whether one popular candidate is actually in the running.

Samia Sadat in a Parwan village. Picture by Jean MacKenzie.

Samia Sadat was a much happier person on election day than she had been just one week earlier.

The parliamentary candidate, who was excluded from the election ballot for allegedly breaking election rules, had just been reinstated – at least implicitly.

“I appealed to the Supreme Court and they followed up the case, and finally I was reinstated,” she said when IWPR found her in the hot and dusty village of Dolona, about 10 kilometres from Charikar, the main town of Parwan province north of Kabul.

The Joint Electoral Management Body, JEMB, has a slightly different version of events.

“She was struck off, but when we investigated further, we found that she should be back on the ballot,” said Joshua Wright, spokesperson for the Electoral Complaints Commission.

Sadat’s exclusion, along with that of 27 other would-be candidates, was announced on September 12. The reason given was her failure to resign in full from her position as head of the education ministry's department for Parwan province.

On election day, JEMB announced that two of the 28 were now back on the ballot and issued a fresh list of disqualified candidates.

Sadat’s name was neither on the list of those reinstated nor on the list of those disqualified from the election.

“The list [of the disqualified] we sent out was comprehensive,” said Wright. “She was not on it, therefore by implication she is a candidate.”

Wright could not explain why JEMB had decided not to make a special announcement of Sadat’s reinstatement as it had done with the other two.

Making the ruling explicit might have helped clear up the confusion that still prevailed on the day of the vote in Sadat’s native province of Parwan, even among election workers,.

Ahmad Suleiman, an official with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, which is coordinating the elections, told IWPR on election day that the final decision on Sadat had not yet been made.

“People can vote for her, but it is not yet clear whether their votes will be counted. We will decide after the vote,” he said, implying that no one was informing people that their ballots might be void.

Parwan, a small province directly north of Kabul, will have six seats in the legislature, two of them reserved for women. Sadat was among eight women and 48 men competing for the positions.

The reasons for Sadat’s apparent reinstatement are no clearer than the motives for excluding her in the first place.

Officials say privately that the Election Complaints Commission was divided on the original decision to strike her off the ballot and that the grounds given – that Sadat had continued to attend education department meetings after her resignation and had used official vehicles in her campaign - were fairly weak.

Sadat told IWPR in an earlier interview that she would appeal directly to President Hamed Karzai and threatened suicide if she was not reinstated.

Now back in the running, Sadat is convinced that her weeklong exclusion has cost her votes.

“I had hoped to come in first,” she told IWPR. “But now I am disappointed. I am afraid I will fail because so many people have heard that I was struck off. I have been going around the polling stations all day, but I cannot cover the whole province in this one-day election.”

Wahidullah Amani is an IWPR staff reporter in Kabul.

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