The much-delayed Afghan presidential election was held on September 28 with a dismal turnout of nearly 2.6 million voters. However, the low polling numbers, representing less than a third of the 9.6 million registered voters, are less of a concern for the Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) than the actual process of counting valid votes and announcing results.
The IEC had announced that votes not verified by biometric identification would not be included in the final tally, upsetting political figures such as Fazal Hadi Muslimyar, Speaker of the Senate. Mr. Muslimyar, on Tuesday, threatened to get the IEC to count the votes, saying: “We will make even their father count… How can you violate people’s right?”
While he later apologised for the comments, Mr. Muslimyar stood by the demand to include votes in districts where biometric verification was not possible or unavailable. On the other side, rival candidates, fearing the possibility of fraud and ballot-stuffing, have insisted on including only the votes with biometric verification. The debate has triggered concerns among voters that a potential political crisis is brewing.
Already, two of the major candidates have declared that they have most votes, even though the IEC is yet to finish counting. The preliminary results are scheduled to be released on October 19. “The results will be announced by the IEC, but we have the most votes. The election is not going to go to a second round,” Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s Chief Executive and President Ashraf Ghani’s main rival in the election, told the local media on September 30. Later that evening, in a separate gathering, Amrullah Saleh, the running mate of President Ghani, made a similar claim.“The information that we have received show that 60% to 70% of people voted for us,” he said, indicating that a dispute, similar to the one five years ago, can’t be ruled out. Allegations of fraud and corruption in 2014 led to a deadlock despite two rounds of polling. Eventually, the U.S. stepped in and brokered a deal to form a national unity government, led by both President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah.
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