Afghans losing trust in electoral process as election commission starts vote audit

KABUL: The post-Taliban Afghanistan held on April 5 its third presidential elections since the fall of the Taliban to choose a new president who would have succeeded outgoing President Hamid Karzai whose term was supposed to have ended last May 22.
However, the electoral process has failed because none of the eight presidential contenders was able to secure more than 50 percent of the votes, paving the way for two front-runners, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, to go to a runoff on June 14. The runoff vote was held amid Taliban threats and tight security, with the hope that it would result in a first-ever peaceful transfer of power in the country that has been rocked by violence and extremism during the past years.
But all the hopes now seem to have vanished as the balloting was allegedly marred with fraud and the election commission has failed to tackle the problem in an impartial manner acceptable to both candidates. The prolonged process in vote counting has made Afghans lose trust in the election process and the election commission. Afghans, almost from all walks of life have lashed at election commission as an impotent body, saying that it has further plunged the county into chaos. 
Some 7 million Afghans out of around 12 million eligible to vote had used their right for suffrage on April 5 presidential elections wherein Abdullah and Ghani emerged as front-runners with bagging 45 percent and 31.6 percent of the votes respectively paving the way for runoff. In the runoff contest, the turnout, according to chairman election commission Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, was more than 8 million. Abdullah who bagged majority of the votes in the first round fell down by securing 43.56 percent against his rival Ghani Ahmadzai who garnered 56.44 percent in the preliminary result.
Reacting sharply to the preliminary result, Abdullah has accused the election commission of committing fraud and siding with Ghani Ahmadzai, saying no decision of the election body is acceptable unless and until all genuine votes are filtered from the fake ones. He threatened to form a parallel government if his demands were not met. It took U.S. Secretary John Kerry to convince both Abdullah and Admadzai, after an intense 48-hour talk, to patch up their differences and both agreed to accept the result of the vote recounting and to form a national unity government. 
Although the Kerry-brokered agreement has been widely welcomed by Afghans, observers have flayed the election commission over alleged mismanagement of the election process. They said that the ineptitude of the election commission has paved the way for foreign intervention in the electoral process. “It would have been better if Afghans themselves had resolved the election deadlock,” Chairman Mushrano Jirga or Upper House of Afghan parliament, Fazal Hadi Muslimyar said. However, he backed Kerry-brokered deal to end election stalemate.
“The widespread fraud committed by the election commission has led to election deadlock but had President Karzai mediated the deal, foreigners would not have been needed,” a former Afghan diplomat and political analyst Ahmad Wali Massoud said. Abdul Shakor, a teacher, said that in India, the election commission was able to count more than 850 million votes and announced the election results within a few days. It remains unknown if the two presidential contenders would indeed abide by their commitment to honor the result of the recounting of votes or renege on their promise to Secretary Kerry.

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