Election monitors and members of the general public have raised concerns about the delays of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) in releasing the findings of its investigations. As the country still awaits final results from the presidential election from over a month ago, some have said that if officials do not justify their delay, they could loose public confidence and threaten the success of the coming runoff round.
The ECC was originally expected to send the results of its complaints review process to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) by May 8, so that final vote results for the first round could be announced by May 14. However, now just a day before the scheduled announcement, the ECC still hasn’t submitted its findings, nor bothered to explain the delay.
“If we don’t receive the decision of the ECC regarding the review of complaints today, it will be very hard for us to announce the results of presidential elections tomorrow,” IEC spokesman Noor Muhammad Noor said on Tuesday.
Although the likely runoff round between the top two candidates – Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai – isn’t expected until early June now, election observers have raised issue with the unjustified delays, emphasizing the importance of transparency. The fact that the ECC has been delayed while evaluating and determining the extent of fraud in the elections only raises the stakes of its actions.
“In the current situation in Afghanistan, further delay in the work of the election commission will increase doubt and uncertainty,” said Zekria Barekzai, the head of Afghanistan Democracy Watch. “When we talk about transparency, an important principle is the prompt delivery of information by the Electoral Complaints Commission and Independent Election Commission to the people.”
Both leading candidates’ campaign teams called for neutrality from the ECC and asked that their complaints be weighed seriously.
Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani filed the majority of complaints submitted by candidates this year. Abdullah’s campaign registered complaints questioning the validity of votes from 1,600 centers, coming to an approximate total of 900,000 votes.
But neither of the top contenders was as critical of the ECC delay as election observers and members of the general public have been.
“Two or three days delay to the work of the ECC is not a problem,”
Abdullah campaign member Said Fazel Agha Sancharaki said on Tuesday.
“The transparency and soundness of the review, along with the satisfaction of those who registered the complaints and candidates who have provided proof of fraud, is what is important.”
“If the ECC is delaying the results to prevent further violations of law, then it is not a problem, but the ECC must still provide a satisfactory answer,” Ashraf Ghani campaign member Abbas Noya said.
Despite a general lack of explanation for the delays this week, ECC officials have maintained that they will not sacrifice transparency for expediency and adherence to the original timeline.
Still, for many of the average Afghans who were so hopeful on Election Day when they showed up in droves to polling sites around the country, the delay of the final results announcement has caused undue stress and strain.
“The Election Commissions must announce the results of the elections, because wherever we apply for employment, they ask us to wait until the results of the elections are announced before,” Kabul resident Said Jawed told TOLOnews.
This year’s presidential election marks the country’s first peaceful transition of power in modern history and comes the year NATO troops are expected to withdraw from Afghanistan. Many have painted this year’s vote as a pivotal moment for the country, a bellwether of further progress, or of renewed struggle.