Poll body under scrutiny to avoid repeat flaws in run-off
The UN is seeking to replace top Afghan election officials tainted with fraud and pro-incumbent bias allegations during the first round of the Afghan presidential election as the country gears up for the Nov. 7 run-off.
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With just over two weeks to go before the presidential run-off vote, the international community - along with Afghan officials - was rushing to ensure the mistakes committed during the first round are not repeated in the critical Nov. 7 vote.
A day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai publicly agreed to a second round, effectively accepting an UN-backed panel’s findings of massive fraud in the Aug. 20 vote, a review of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) was underway.
Reporting from the capital Kabul on Wednesday, GRN correspondent Jerome Starkey told FRANCE 24 that the IEC was replacing around 200 of its officials.
“We understand that more than 200 senior district officials from the country’s Independent Election Commission have been replaced,” said Starkey. “These are people that a spokesman for the United Nations said were either corrupt or incompetent.”
A body comprised of officials appointed by the Afghan president, the IEC came under fire in the aftermath of the Aug. 20 poll for bias and allegedly colluding in fraud to the advantage of the incumbent.
Hours after the date for the second round was fixed, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the BBC the UN was indeed seeking to get more than 200 IEC officials – or more than half the top staff - replaced.
Ballots printed, ready to roll
In the immediate aftermath of the Aug. 20 poll, there was widespread criticism that the international community had failed to prepare for the poll despite warnings of irregularities with the voter registration process as well as the challenges posed by the security situation in Afghanistan.
But in an interview with FRANCE 24 from Kabul on Wednesday, Grant Kippen, the head of the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), said he believed the IEC was prepared for a second round.
“They’ve been planning for this for a number of months now,” said Kippen, referring to a run-off vote. “My understanding is that they’re prepared. They have ballots printed, they have them here in Kabul along with the indelible ink and the polling station kits. So now the effort begins to get those materials distributed to the provinces and ready for the November 7 vote.”
The logistical challenges of distributing the materials in an insecure, largely mountainous country such as Afghanistan however are immense.
The start of the brutal Afghan winter is expected to cut off many sections of the country as the snows freeze the high mountain passes. Security challenges, especially in the dangerous insurgent-hit areas, are particularly troubling.
‘The only course’ for Abdullah
The challenges of a second round were so daunting that some Afghan experts had hoped that Karzai could work out a power-sharing deal with his political rival, former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.
But in an interview with the Qatar-based al Jazeera TV station on Wednesday, Abdullah said a second round was the only scenario amid the political crisis following the fraud-tainted Aug. 20 contest.
"There might be preferences for a different scenario but at this stage this is the only course,” said Abdullah.
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