‘Candidates’ boycott has no bearing on poll bodies’
KABUL (Pajhwok): Political experts say suspending cooperation with the electoral bodies by presidential candidates could not create any legal problems for them.
They argue the election law allows candidates to send their observers to the electoral bodies to oversee the election process as their civil right and not sending their observers for the task does not create any legal issue for the commissions.
Political Science Faculty head at Kabul University Wadir Safi said: “They (candidates) have the right to monitor the vote tallying process after the elections and if they do not monitor, this is personal and has nothing to do with activities of the electoral bodies, even if both the candidates stay away.”
Safi said there were legal ways to investigate problems in the elections and the candidates could only raise objections through those ways.
Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s boycott of the vote count entered its 14th day on Tuesday.
Three days after the presidential runoff election, Abdullah claimed widespread fraud had taken place during the second round of presidential vote, asking his observers to suspend cooperation with the electoral bodies.
Safi said Abdullah’s decision to boycott the electoral process could not create any legal problem for the two election commissions --- Independent Election Commission and Independent Electoral Complaints Commission.
“These electoral panels are bound under the law to count votes, investigate complaints and consider what they themselves have observed and announce the results on schedule,” the expert said.
Abdullah had demanded the suspension of IEC Secretary Ziaul Haq Amarkhel, who had resigned to ease the political crisis that forced the IEC to delay announcing preliminary results from the June 14 election.
The candidate had questioned turnouts in some provinces, saying votes cast in some districts exceeded the number of eligible voters.
However, the IEC rejected Abdullah’s call for a halt to the vote-tallying process and continued counting of votes in the presence of local and international observers. The commission had also said it was ready to answer all questions raised by Abdullah.
Abdullah continues to boycott cooperation with the IEC despite Amarkhel’s resignation. Amarkhel was accused by Abdullah’s Reforms and Unanimity team of having committed fraud in favour of his rival Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
Amarkhel was accused by the Kabul police chief, Mohammad Zahir, of dispatching a truckload of blank ballot papers to a polling centre in Kabul and the Sarobi district.
Later Abdullah’s supporters released an audio recording allegedly contained evidence of fraud against Amarkhel, who had denied the allegations and had called the audio recording as fake.
Similarly, Abdullah’s team members had released audio recordings allegedly contained evidence of fraud against the governors of Paktika and Maidan Wardak provinces. Both the governors and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance had denied the allegations.
Abdullah’s camp has said it no longer recognises the electoral bodies after its demands were ignored.
But the IEC says it would look into Abdullah’s demands in accordance with the relevant law. Abdullah has called for reelection in some areas, a demand turned down by the IEC.
Safi said thousands of Abdullah’s observers were present in all provinces on the voting day and it seemed these observers had informed Abdullah of his possible defeat.
“In order to sabotage the process or get privileges and raise allegations, they started such things.”
Safi also mocked Abdullah for asking the IEC to separate bogus votes from valid ones. “It is the IEC job to clean out fraudulent votes.” He said Abdullah could move court if the IEC failed to address his complaints.
He also called as illegal the release of audio recordings by Abdullah’s team, saying the recordings should have been given to the IECC for investigation.
Safi also lashed out at media outlets who played the audio recordings, saying these outlets should be closed and investigated why they aired the recordings.
After releasing the audio recordings and evidence of alleged fraud, Abdullah has said he no longer trusted the government and the election commissions.
His team says how can they trust the electoral bodies which themselves were involved in fraud.
On the other hand, Ashraf Ghani’s team says the decision to suspend cooperation with the electoral bodies by Abdullah is not any solution.
They say if Abdullah had no trust in the electoral bodies, he should not have contested the election.
They add when Abdullah topped the previous round of presidential election, he did not cast doubts on the election commission’s activities and started accusing it of fraud after realizing he is trailing behind his rival in the second round.
After the voting came to a close on June 14, Abdullah said it was not the time to talk about the results, something related to the election commission. “But it seems the results are the same as of the first round.”
Political expert Ajmal Hodman said every candidate signed an agreement with the election commission at the time of his/her candidacy that he/she would accept whatever decision the commission made and that he/she would abide by all laws of the country.
“But now Abdullah has ignored that agreement. His team’s stance was the same it showed after the 2009 election.”
Hodman said if Abdullah did not trust the election commission, he should have raised this ahead of the first round of presidential election.
He suggested the former foreign minister should resolve his complaints through legal ways.
“Running away from the commissions is not a solution, which lies in providing evidence about electoral fraud to the commissions and addressing the complaints through legal decisions which are acceptable to all the sides.”
Hodman believed accepting election results in districts meant respecting the people’s decision, saying the current political stalemate was in no one’s interest.
The election commission has said it would announce the final results from the runoff election on schedule and President Karzai has said he would transfer power to his successor on the fifth day of Eidul Fitr.
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