Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Afghanistan: Parliamentary Election Results Announced
November 24th, 2010 by Evan
On Wednesday, Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Commission released the results from the September parliamentary elections for 34 of 35 voting districts. A loose coalition led by former presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah won over 90 of the 249 seats in the lower house of the Afghan parliament and will form a quasi-opposition to President Hamid Karzai’s parliamentary allies. Christian Science Monitor reports that the winners were disproportionally members of the Hazara ethnic community, largely because continued violence in Pashtun regions kept voters at home. The Electoral Commission also announced that three more preliminary winners were disqualified for fraud, bringing the total number of disqualified candidate to 24.
Afghanistan: Final Election Results Wednesday, 21 Candidates Disqualified
November 23rd, 2010 by Jason
The final results of the September elections for the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament) will be announced by the Independent Election Commission on Wednesday. The announcement will come on the heels of 21 candidates who “earned a winning number of votes in their distric,” being disqualified
“‘[d]ue to irregularities, usage of fake votes and the influence of provincial officials, which created electoral fraud,’” according to Ahmad Zia Rafat, a member of the five-person Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) panel.
Warren P. Strobel
and Habib Zohori
, in an article for McClatchey, focus on the results in Ghazni province, where Hazara candidates (an ethnic minority) were able to take all 11 provincial seats. “What happened in Ghazni is in dispute. While Pashtun candidates say their votes were stolen, there’s little doubt that polls in the province were among the messiest of a very messy campaign.”
Afghanistan: Electoral Process “Mired in Uncertainty”
November 17th, 2010 by Jason
Scott Worden writes that “[p]rotests have become frequent occurrences in Jalalabad, Khost, Kabul and Herat. Afghan media have aired a variety of audio and video recordings purporting to catch government and IEC [Independent Election Commission] officials in the act of committing fraud […] Welcome to the messy end-game of Afghanistan’s second Parliamentary election.” Worden goes on to chronicle
a number of difficulties resulting from the election (the preliminary results of which were released a month ago), including failed candidates’ attempts to impugn the process (made less difficult due to a “lack of transparency in the process of invalidating ballots and deciding complaints”), the perception that President Hamid Karzai is attempting to interfere in some cases, and an overall lack of transparency from Afghanistan’s IEC and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). Worden does praise the IEC for its anti-corruption efforts, and offers several recommendations that would help “preserve what is left of the process so that no further damage is done to the rule of law or the credibility of the final results.”
Afghanistan: Election Fraud Triggers Investigation
November 4th, 2010 by Jason
Accusations of voter fraud in Afghanistan’s September elections have triggered an investigation
by the country’s attorney general, according to Joshua Partlow
in today’s Washington Post.
“Deputy Attorney General Rahmatullah Nazari said his staff has begun investigating nine cases in which election officials, all but one of them at the Kabul headquarters of the Independent Election Commission, are accused of rigging votes.” Afghan officials announced following the election that 1.3 million of the 5.6 million total ballots cast had to be disqualified because of likely fraud.
POMED Notes: “What Next for Afghanistan? A Post-Election Analysis”
October 20th, 2010 by Anna
On Monday, October 18th, the Brookings Institution held an event called “What Next for Afghanistan? A Post-Election Analysis.” The panel was moderated by Martin Indyk, Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution. The panelists were Thomas Garrett, Vice President for Programs at the International Republican Institute; Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow and Director of Research in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution; Vanda Felbab-Brown, Fellow at the Brookings Institution; and Gerard Russell, Former Senior Political Adviser for Afghanistan. The group discussed the recent parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, focusing on polling irregularities, voter intimidation, tabulation errors, prospects for peace talks between President Hamid Karzai and Taliban leaders, and the future of the U.S. and NATO role in the country.
(For the full notes, continue reading below. Or, click here
for the PDF.)
Afghanistan: O’Hanlon Sees “Basis For Hope”
September 29th, 2010 by Jason
Writing in Politico, Michael O’Hanlon, who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, argues that the outlook for that country is more positive than has been reported. “I saw more basis for hope than recent perceptions in the United States would allow.” O’Hanlon describes several reasons for optimism: “Four million in turnout is not bad for a midterm election in a troubled, war-torn country[…]Whatever Karzai’s limitations, there are a number of impressive reformers within his Cabinet and an improving slate of provincial governors.” O’Hanlon does concede that there will be continuing difficulties, including dealing with corruption and the growing insurgency.
In contrast, Vygaudas Usackas, the EU representative in Afghanistan, sees the Afghan electoral system as an impediment to a modern democracy according to a report by Radio Free Europe. Usackas is concerned with the “single non-transferable vote” system, which he believes is complicating the “development of political parties,” and which others describe as “encouraging patron-client relationships within constituencies.” He also emphasizes the need for a new census, saying, “‘We don’t know how many inhabitants [there] are in Afghanistan — is it 20 million or 40 million?[…]How many eligible voters are [there]? There are no proper voters’ register.’”
POMED Notes: “The Struggle for a Democratic Future in Afghanistan: The 2010 Parliamentary Elections”
September 27th, 2010 by Anna
On Monday, September 27th, the Middle East Institute held an event entitled “The Struggle for a Democratic Future in Afghanistan: The 2010 Parliamentary Elections.” Kate Seelye, Vice President of Programs and Communications for MEI, introduced the two speakers: Marvin Weinbaum, scholar at the Middle East Institute, and Caroline Wadhams, Director for South Asia Security Studies at the Center for American Progress. Both recently returned from trips to Afghanistan, where they were monitoring the recent elections there. Seelye asked the speakers to discuss what they saw, as well as address the impact that the elections and their results might have for Afghanistan and for Washington’s engagement there.
(To read the full event summary, continue below. Or click here
for the pdf.)
Afghanistan: Despite Flaws, Elections Essential for Nation Building
September 20th, 2010 by Evan
An editorial in The National suggests that no matter how flawed, elections in Afghanistan are an essential step toward building a national identity: “The national project has never taken firm root in Afghanistan – tribes often reject the sovereignty of the provincial governments, much less the federal government in Kabul. The elections officials who are risking their lives in the hinterlands are engaged in an effort of nation-building. Fragile as it is, the alternative is to abandon the country to fragmentation.”
Afghanistan: Election Wrap Up
September 20th, 2010 by Evan
Following last Saturday’s parliamentary election in Afghanistan both international and local observers documented widespread fraud. In its preliminary report, the Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) reported extensive voter intimidation, use of fake voter identification cards, ballot stuffing, and intimidation of electoral observers, among other irregularities. Despite these issues, FEFA hailed the participation of Afghan voters in the face of security threats: “The participation of voters and the security arrangements put in place for voting were the most encouraging aspects of Election Day. Against the backdrop of a violent campaign season, millions bravely voted anyway, demonstrating again that the people of Afghanistan are strongly committed to democracy.” The National Democratic Institute also published a report calling on the international community to continue to monitor developments in Afghanistan as the votes are counted: “The tabulation of votes has yet to begin, official results have not yet been announced, and election complaints must still be processed and resolved by election authorities. Election-related problems may be revealed during the coming weeks, including serious abuses that may have occurred in insecure and inaccessible areas of the country.”
Gates on Preparations for Afghan Elections
September 17th, 2010 by Evan
At a joint press conference yesterday with French Defense Minister Herve Morin, Secretary of State Robert Gates said he believes that Afghanistan has a “capable and competent” security strategy for the September 18 parliamentary elections. According to Gates, the Afghan army has improved significantly over the past months. Morin concurred: “I can see actually very, very visible improvements,” he said, adding “At the beginning, I saw an army that was not an army … Now they are military troops and they’re perfectly able to conduct operations, sometimes with the support of ISAF, but they’re able to conduct operations.” Despite security improvements, Gates acknowledged that results will likely be contested: “You have a lot of these parliamentary seats that have as many as 10 people running … That means nine people are going to be unhappy after the election. So we’ll just have to wait and see. I think there is a good adjudication process that has been put in place so I hope that we will see a credible election in which improprieties are at a minimum.”
Afghanistan: Election Violations Unexamined
September 17th, 2010 by Anna
The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan has called on the Electoral Complaints Commission to “decisively adjudicate all complaints submitted after Saturday’s parliamentary elections.” FEFA election observers reportedly submitted 583 reports of election violations (including candidates using state funds for their campaigns and government representatives illegally supporting candidates) over a period of about five weeks. They also found numerous cases of election-related intimidation, including threats from the Taliban to kill candidates. According to FEFA’s executive director Jandad Spinghar, “[f]ew candidates were sanctioned for electoral offenses, and the candidates the commission did sanction were not the most serious offenders.” Spinghar added that recent incidents of election-related violence demonstrate “policy-makers’ lack of commitment to transitional justice over the past nine years.” FEFA chairman Nader Nadery
still sought to reassure voters, and said: “We encourage voters to exercise their political rights, and our observers will be there to watch whether they can do so freely.”
Afghanistan: Election Hopes and Doubts
September 16th, 2010 by Jason
With the Taliban calling for a boycott and some in the Hazara community already complaining about interference in the voting process, this Saturday’s parliamentary elections will likely be a fractious event. Writing at The Diplomat
, Karlos Zurutuza
takes the temperature of Afghans in Kabul. Many seem to have already decided on a candidate for reasons ranging from shared ethnic identity to simple competence. In a hopeful sign, 410 women are running for seats in parliament according to Zurutuza. The bustle and relative safety of Kabul, however, masks the very real problem of providing security for citizens and international observers in other areas of the country. A German government envoy says that he will “…probably never leave the compound during his five-week tour” in Kunduz, while others will never leave Kabul. A member of USAID describes his mission as “…monitor[ing] the whole election process” because, “‘If these elections turn into an embarrassing fraud like the previous ones, pressure from public opinion to end the mission in Afghanistan will be insurmountable.’”
Afghanistan: Time to Negotiate With the Taliban?
September 15th, 2010 by Jason
With parliamentary elections
three days away and the beginning of a major offensive outside of Kandahar, worries about the coalition’s mission in Afghanistan are growing. Gilles Dorronsoro spotlights the deteriorating security condition in the country: “While it is still safe in Kabul, you can feel the Taliban tightening its hold around the capital.[…] The Taliban have a great deal of influence, but even where they haven’t established control, the Afghan government doesn’t enjoy any support.” Even NGOs are beginning to acknowledge the Taliban’s influence in the country: “The NGOs negotiate directly with Taliban leaders to ensure access to the Afghan people and carry out their programs. The process has become so formalized that international groups can now expect to receive a paper that is stamped and sealed by the Taliban outlining the permissions granted.” Dorronsoro concludes that it is time to begin negotiating with the Taliban and possibly bring them into a new coalition government, “…with assurances that Al Qaeda will not operate in Afghanistan again…”as part of the agreement.
POMED Notes: “Peace Building in Dangerous Places”
September 14th, 2010 by Jason
The United States Institute of Peace held a panel discussion today that included four of its successful grantees. The event was moderated by Andrew Blum, a program officer at the Grant Program and opening remarks were given by Ambassador Richard H. Solomon, president of the USIP. The panelists for the event were Dr. Abdel-Mitaal Girshab, of the Institute for the Development of Civil Society in Sudan, Masood Karokhail of the Tribal Liaison Office in Afghanistan, Aari Mohammed of INSAN Iraqi Society, and Dr. Maria Emma Wills of the Historical Memory Commission in Colombia.
(For complete notes continue below the fold or click here
to read as a pdf.)
Afghanistan: How to Deal with Corruption
September 13th, 2010 by Jason
Concerns about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan are growing as questions about the coalitions ability to effect real change become more prominent. The Wall Street Journal details
the Karzai government’s efforts to stifle cooperation between foreign corruption investigators and the Afghan prosecutors who they work with: “In July, Mr. Karzai moved to exert more control over two U.S.-backed outfits that detained one of his aides.” The move, along with a review of the Anti-Corruption Unit by the Afghan government, is seen as problematic due to the pervasive nature of corruption in Afghanistan. “The endemic graft has already left many Afghans deeply cynical about their own rulers—and Western nations that back them—dealing a severe blow to a war effort that hinges on creating a credible Afghan government. At the same time, the corruption is further eroding support for the war in the U.S. and Europe,” write the authors.
In the New York Times
, Andrew Exum describes the difficulty involved in stemming the tide of corruption: “Unless you are prepared to stay in Afghanistan with high troop levels for at least a decade, then an overt campaign to tackle corruption is a big mistake.” Gilles Dorronsoro goes further in the piece, describing the anti-corruption efforts as a “side show” and goes on to say that the U.S. should focus more on developing government institutions in Kandahar: “If we don’t really make an effort in Kandahar, where we’ve put all of our bets, what are we doing trying to put some Karzai adviser in jail in Kabul?”
Afghanistan: Is a “Revolution” in the Offing?
September 9th, 2010 by Jason
three influential Afghans: Ahmad Wali Masoud, the former Afghan Ambassador to Britain, last year’s presidential challenger Dr. Abdullah Abdullah
, and Amrullah Saleh
, the former internal security chief who was recently removed. Dr. Abdullah and Massoud (Saleh did not comment on the record) spend most of the interview lamenting the control that Hamid Karzai has exercised and the support he enjoys from the United States. According to Marlowe, frustration is spreading due, in part, to the fact that “Afghans believe in American omnipotence, and think that we have anointed Karzai.” She goes on to describe a rather disturbing scenario: “We gave the Afghans a glimpse of the promised land of democracy, but then stood by while Karzai slammed the door on their fingers. Dr. Abdullah and a couple of others suggested to me that if Afghans took to the streets to protest another fraud-ridden election, the Karzai government might engage in a bloody crackdown. Given that U.S. and NATO troops currently back that government, such a scenario resembles a nightmare. Picture last summer’s Iranian demonstrations, but with American soldiers firing on democracy activists.”
POMED Notes: New America Foundation “A New Way Forward? Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan”
September 8th, 2010 by Jason
The New America Foundation held a panel discussion today to introduce the Afghanistan Study Group’s paper, “A New Way Forward: Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan”. (PDF here) The panel members were all members of the study group, although not all of them signed the finished product making for an interesting discussion. The panel included Paul Pillar (Director of Graduate Studies, Center for Peace and Security Studies, Georgetown University and former intelligence officer), Matthew Hoh (Former Foreign Service Officer and Marine, Director, Afghanistan Study Group), Steve Coll (President of the New America Foundation), Brian Katulis
(Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress), Charles Kupchan (Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Professor of International Affairs, Georgetown University,Author, How Enemies Become Friends), Darcy Burner (Director, American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation), Robert Pape
(Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago Director, Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism Author, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism)
, and the event was moderated by Steve Clemons (Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation Publisher, The Washington Note).
(Continue below the fold for full notes or click here
Posted in Afghanistan, Civil Society, DC Event Notes, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Human Rights, Islamist movements, Military, NGOs, Pakistan, Sectarianism, Taliban, US foreign policy | Comment »
Afghanistan: The Difficult Road to Parliamentary Elections
August 31st, 2010 by Evan
CFR.org has a new interview with International Crisis Group analyst Candace Rondeaux previewing Afghanistan’s September 18th parliamentary election. According to Rondeaux, the outlook isn’t good. Candidates, campaigners, and elections officials are all targets for attack; significant fraud is expected despite the efforts of international monitors; and voter turn-out will likely be much lower than previous elections. These factors lead Rondeaux to argue
that the elections should be postponed until the security situation stabilizes.
Afghanistan: Parliamentary Election Anxiety
August 26th, 2010 by Jason
Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections will be held on September 18th in Afghanistan. Tina Blohmreports from Paktika on the difficulties of running free and fair elections there. The problems range from a shrinking number of polling places (190, down from 265 in last year’s presidential elections) due to security issues, to a lack of poll workers brought about by a fear of insurgent reprisals, and the fact that “According to the provincial head of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), after the 2009 election, 1555 of its staff members were blacklisted in Paktika alone due to allegations of fraud.”
Candidates have also found it difficult to campaign in Paktika: “Out of 22 candidates (one of lowest numbers in the country), six were in the province … the rest staying in Kabul mainly due to security concerns.” Blohm also discusses the rising anti-coalition sentiment in the province, raising the concern that international observers are going to be unable to perform their jobs when “the question of movement beyond the provincial capital is central - and in case of the internationals this is unrealistic.”
Afghanistan: The “Faustian Pact”
August 26th, 2010 by Jason
At Democracy Digest
, Michael Allen covers
a recent Brookings Institution event featuring Steve Coll
, Vali Nasr
, and Michael O’Hanlon, exploring the effectiveness of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. According to Coll, NATO has made a “Faustian Pact” with local warlords by sacrificing the long term development of civil society for short term security gains. Coll also expressed concern that too much emphasis is being paid to centralization at the cost of local governance. O’ Hanlon noted that the Afghan people are generally supportive of the central government, while Nasr emphasized the importance of Pakistan in any calculations of the region.
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization