Afghanistan: AIHRC-UNAMA Joint Monitoring of Political Rights, Presidential and Provincial Council Elections, Third Report, 1 Aug - 21 Oct 2009

Summary of Findings

- The elections took place in spite of a challenging environment that was characterised by insecurity and logistical and human resource difficulties. These elections were the first to be fully led and organised by the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) took the lead in providing security for the elections. It was also the first time that arrangements were made for prisoners and hospitalised citizens, to cast their votes.

- The steady increase of security-related incidents by Anti-Government Elements (AGEs) was a dominant factor in the preparation and holding of the elections. Despite commendable efforts from the ANSF, insecurity had a bearing on the decision of Afghans to participate in the elections

- Polling day recorded the highest number of attacks and other forms of intimidation for some 15 years. Regrettably, 31 civilians were killed, including 11 IEC officials as well as 18 Afghan National Police (ANP) and eight Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel.

- The National Security Council order requested domestic and international media agencies to refrain from reporting any violence on polling day; coupled with the arrest of a number of journalists, this had a disquieting effect on freedom of expression. The majority of local media refrained from reporting on election-related violence.

- One third of registered voters, a figure which is significantly lower than the previous elections, are understood to have cast their ballots. Voter participation varied according to regions: turnout was low in conflict-affected areas while it was higher in places such as the Central Highlands and the Northern and Northeastern regions.

- Although Afghan women are demonstrating an increased interest in political matters, they voted in much fewer numbers than men largely due to insecurity and social-cultural constraints hindered the participation of women.

- A large number of allegations regarding electoral fraud and irregularities was made, especially with respect to ballot box stuffing. Fraudulent practices were common, particularly in the Central, Southern, Eastern and Southeastern regions. Proxy voting, underage voting and voters using multiple registration cards occurred in certain parts of the country. Widely reported problems with the improper use of indelible ink in some polling centres and malfunctioning hole punchers coupled with widely reported allegations of fraud, undermined voters' confidence in the electoral process.

- The freedom of voters to choose their candidate is limited by societal practices in Afghanistan; the choice of the preferred candidate of the community is sometimes determined by an influential community leader or collectively. The freedom of the individual voter to choose was further inhibited by candidates, their agents and local commanders as well as some IEC and government officials, directing or intimidating voters and campaigning at polling centres.

- On 20 October, the IEC announced that a run-off would take place between President Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah on 7 November. According to IEC calculations based on the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) decision of 18 October, the votes for the leading candidate were reduced to below the 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a run-off.