Nearly after three months of delay, in a press conference held Sunday, December 22, Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced the preliminary results for the country’s 4th presidential election held on September 28 despite many threats posed by the Taliban militant group. The incumbent president Ashraf Ghani is the leading candidate with 923,868 of votes which counts for 50.64 percent of the total 1,824,401 votes cast in the elections. His main rival is the incumbent Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah who has received 720,990 votes (39.5%), followed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar with 3.85 percent, and Rahmatullah Nabil with 1.86 percent of the votes.
The IEC Chairwoman, Hawa Alam Nooristani, described the troubled technical process of data from bio-metric devices to the central server as main reason behind the IEC’s failure to announce the election results on the set date, October 19. But the process faced many challenges which clearly impact operation of the IEC.
The IEC chairwoman said during the conference that the presidential candidates have three days to register their election related complaints with the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC). She assured that the IEC would closely cooperate in assessing complaints.
As illustrated in the initial electoral map uploaded on the IEC’s website marked with different colors for constituency of each candidates, the election results suggest a divided Afghanistan across the ethnic lines. Abdullah is leading in 18 provinces in northern and central highlands of Afghanistan, predominantly populated by Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks while Ghani is leading in 16 southern and southeastern provinces, mostly populated by Pashtuns.
Soon after announcement of the results, some international donors of the Afghan government and the elections stakeholders welcomed announcement of the results.
Hours later, chairwoman of the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC), Zohra Bayan Shinwari, appeared in a press conference and urged all election stakeholders to refrain from prejudices as it was not the final results.
“This commission assures to ensure electoral justice,” the IECC chairwomen further asserted in the conference.
With the IEC having announced the preliminary results and largely become under fire by most of the election stakeholders, mostly by protesting candidate, all eyes are now on the IECC.
Din Mohammad Azimi, deputy of the IECC said in a press conference today, December 23, that Abdullah’s ticket have registered around 4,000 complaints with the commission.
Noor Rahman Akhlaqi, a senior member of Abdullah’s ticket, posted on his Facebook account that they will probably register the same number of complaints with the IECC in coming days.
Standing side by side with his running mates, Amrullah Saleh and Sarwar Danish, and surrounded by a large number of his supporters at the presidential palace, Mr. Ghani celebrated the announcement as a ‘victory’ and noted that holding the elections ensured durability of the republic in the country.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement that “any decisions taken by the electoral management bodies in the final stage of the process must have clear legal and technical justifications and should be explained to the people of Afghanistan in clear terms.”
US Ambassador to Afghanistan, John R. Bass, also wrote on his Twitter account that the results are preliminary and many steps remain before final election results are certified, to ensure the Afghan people have confidence in the results.
NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, Nicholas Kay, also welcomed the announcement of the preliminary results by the IEC and commended Afghan security forces for ensuring security of the process.
Of the presidential tickets, the announcement of the results was, however, welcomed only by the state builder ticket led by Ghani and Faramarz Tamanna who had joined Ghani’s bloc after the election.
The stability and partnership ticket led by Abdullah said in a statement that the IEC had announced the preliminary results without singling out the unclean votes. “The fraudulent results which was announced by the commission without distinguishing between clean and unclean votes is not legitimate,” the statement warned.
Moreover, addressing a large gathering of his supporters in his palace, office of the chief executive, close to the presidential palace, Abdullah said he did not accept the results. “Based on the clean votes of the people, we are the winners,” he claimed, warning that they would defend the people votes.
Appearing in a press conference in Kabul, today, December 23, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, pronounced the preliminary result as ‘ridiculous’ and added that the election has been widely fraudulent. Hekmatyar further noted that he does not accept the preliminary results.
The justice and security ticket led by Rahmatullah Nabil also expressed strong disagreement with the preliminary results and described that as “coup against democracy.”
Abdul Latif Pedram, another candidate, also criticized the management of the IEC leadership, claiming that he had won far more votes than announced by the commission in the preliminary results.
The main dispute raised in the Afghan 2019 presidential poll stem from around 300,000 questionable votes, which three major presidential candidates, Abdullah, Nabil, and Hekmatyar describe as invalid votes.
The controversial votes consist 137,630 quarantined by Dermalog – the German Company which provide biometric devices for the election process – and 102,012 votes cast beyond the voting time limit (from 07:00 AM to 07:00 PM) on the Election Day.
The IEC then validated the quarantined votes in its decision 108, saying that the data were received from 4,563 polling stations and that it was not a ‘major’ number. Regarding the votes cast beyond the voting time limit, the IEC has argued that these votes were shown beyond the voting time limit due to technical problems with the time settings of the devices used in polling stations.