NDI's Preliminary Statement on the 2014 Afghan Presidential Runoff Election

June 17, 2014

OVERVIEW

On June 14, Afghans again came out in large numbers to participate in the nation’s first presidential runoff election. As in the first round voting on April 5, voters defied attempts by extremist groups to disrupt the voting, setting the stage for the historic transfer of power from one democratically elected government to the next.

Both presidential candidates – former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai – conducted vigorous campaigns throughout the country, which included large rallies, town hall meetings, posters and campaign brochures as well as the use of social media. The candidates also attempted to gain the endorsements of the first round losing candidates as well as other prominent political figures. The runoff campaign did not include candidate debates, which had helped generate broad interest in the April elections.

NDI’s observers found that polling throughout the country was largely calm and orderly. Domestic election monitors and candidate agents were present at most polling stations visited. The vast majority of polling stations opened on time and were properly equipped. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) implemented several reforms since the elections in April, including adding 2,341 new polling stations to help ensure access to the polls; excluding all first round IEC staff who had been implicated in acts of fraud or whose performance was sub-standard; and increasing transparency by explicitly permitting cameras and recording devices within the polling stations, as long as they did not interfere with the voting process.

The IEC’s reforms, however, were sometimes controversial. Some of the criteria used for selecting the location of the new polling sites were unclear since they also included areas that did not experience ballot shortages in the first round. This fueled questions among civil society groups on whether the placement of the sites was influenced by political bias. NDI observers witnessed some violations of the election laws and regulations, such as campaigning within the polling station area and the deployment of police within the polling station. The police, however, did not appear to be interfering with the electoral process. The problems NDI observed did not appear to be widespread or systematic.

Since the counting and complaints process are still ongoing, it is too early to make a final evaluation of the electoral process. Allegations of fraud and irregularities, as well as IEC partisanship, have emerged from both presidential campaigns and civil society groups. As of time of writing, 568 complaints have been filed with the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC), and some of these involve allegations of serious misconduct. Article 62 of the Electoral Law empowers the IECC to initiate an investigation of a suspected electoral violation in the absence of a complaint. This authority can be used to address a wide range of violations including suspected misconduct of electoral staff.

Candidate teams and observer groups should closely follow the tallying of votes and processing of complaints in the weeks ahead to ensure the integrity of the election. It ultimately will be the Afghan people who determine the credibility of this election. An electoral process that has the public’s confidence greatly increases the prospects that the losing candidate will accept the result of the polls.
The next government of Afghanistan will face enormous economic, political and security challenges. Steps have already been taken by the president’s office and the presidential campaigns to facilitate the transfer of power. The international community should support these efforts, as needed, so that the new government can assume responsibility for all aspects of government as rapidly as possible.

To read the full statement, please click on the attachment on the top right corner.