Afghanistan elections: Why so few official fraud complaints?
Allegations of Afghanistan election fraud are rampant, but there are few formal complaints. Here's why.
The Afghan vote on Saturday has spawned hundreds of complaints of voting fraud and other irregularities. But many supposed infractions will never be formally addressed because of fear or ignorance of the process.Skip to next paragraph
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The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), which rules on allegations of election fraud, says by Sunday evening it had received 713 written complaints.
But it appears complaints received aren’t necessarily the best barometer for on the ground reality: In the face of serious security concerns reporting requirements dissuade many Afghans from coming forward, not least because they can't be made anonymously. That's a powerful disincentive in a country still ruled by guns, not laws.
Complaints must be written, must include the name of the accuser, and must be processed through provincial ECC boards – stipulations that protect against rumor mongering but also expose whistleblowers to retribution from local power brokers.
“Trying to pursue literally thousands of ‘reports’ is irresponsible. We know that elections breed rumor, they always do,” says Johann Kriegler, one of the ECC commissioners. “Give us hard data, we will pursue.”
The work of the ECC is important to restore the confidence of Afghans in the fairness of elections and to rule on disputes that take on extra importance when the margins of victory are expected to be razor thin. In the parliamentary election in 2005, the margin of votes between one of the winners and one of the losers in Kabul was just 36 votes, according to Marvin Weinbaum, a veteran observer with Democracy International.