Complaints to be addressed after audit: IEC

KABUL (Pajhwok): The Independent Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC) would start investigating complaints against alleged irregularities in the presidential and provincial council ballots once the vote auditing process was concluded, an official said on Thursday.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, IECC Chairman Abdul Sattar Sadat acknowledged that the electoral process dragged on as a result of differences between the two candidates, with neither to accept defeat.
Investigations into complaints might affect the eventual number of votes of either of the runners, he believed, explaining fraud alone was not the issue that led to the crisis. In fact, he said, one of the candidates wanted to be part of power-sharing, forcing stakeholders to create a chief executive post.
The electoral bodies, he added, had said time and again that fraud had taken place during the elections but it was not out of its investigation range. Dr. Abdullah had been asked several times for cooperation but his response had been negative, he continued.
Sadat said the Reforms and Unanimity alleged the Change and Continuity team, government and electoral commissions had joined hands to bring Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai to presidency under rigging. 
No doubt, he said the runoff vote was marred by fraud, orchestrated by both the candidates in their favour. He said: “Vote audit will determine who did more fraud.”
The Reforms and Unanimity team had committed rigging in the second round, which was exposed by the vote audit, he alleged. Following mediation by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, both contenders agreed on a full audit and the process was expected to be concluded in two weeks, the IEC head said. 
Sadat remarked: “If vote audit leads Ahmadzai’s loss, he will be remembered as a big fraudulent in the country’s history but if he won, his rival would emerge as a controversial figure and lair, intent upon setting up a parallel government.”
Keeping this situation in view, the commission agreed to a full vote audit to provide a legitimate system and establish facts.
IECC decision:
After conclusion of vote audit, Sadat said they would start process on complaints registered in Kabul and rest of the provinces. He believed the complaints would either change the election results or otherwise. “But it will lead to the increase or decrease of the number of ballots.”
After completion of the vote inspection, the results would be shared with them by the IEC and final results would be made public by the election commission after their approval, the IECC chief added.
Decisions would be made as per established law and there would be no flexibility in this connection, he maintained. “I will make decisions in accordance with the country’s law,” he added.  
Sadat said the vote audit was proceeding with tandem and he hoped genuine votes would be separated from the bogus ones. With respect to the current measures of vote audit, many votes would be invalidated keeping in views their procedures.
The vote invalidation checklist had been provided by the UN experts with request from the presidential contenders. 
Some analysts believed that candidates had taken control of electoral affairs from election commissions, but Sadat rejected the notion, saying the IEC had the ability to tackle the affairs.
“There were several attempts in this connection, but it yielded no results. The authority of the commission supervises things efficiently,” he added.
According to the IECC chief, the current vote audit was proceeding under article 58 of the constitution and candidate could file complaints with election commission against the invalidated ballots at the end of the process.
Foreign intervention:
The UN, especially the US secretary of state, started efforts to break the electoral impasse after presidential contender Abdullah claimed preplanned fraud in runoff elections and suspended relations with the election commissions.
With mediation from Kerry, both hopefuls agreed on creation of a chief executive post for the loser candidate, which would be converted into the prime ministerial slot after amendments to the constitution.
He thought setting up the chief executive post was in disregard of the constitution, with the president and Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Construction (ICOIC) was bound to prevent this from happening. 
Sadat said Abdullah did not trust them because their decisions would not provide chief executive post for them.
Widespread fraud:
According to information from IEC officials, around eight million people took part in the June 14 runoff, but Abdullah the turnout figures in the second round. He alleged his rival had committed widespread rigging in the runoff vote.
Sadat did not rule out the rigging during the election, but said that it was the responsibility of electoral bodies to investigate the complaints.
Government role:
The IECC head said the government had fully supported them. President Hamid Karzai never pressurized them. But he did not rule out the involvement of the government in the election process saying both the contesting teams had the support of different officials during the election campaign.
He lauded the peaceful conduct of the election, saying Afghanistan had never observed in its history a peaceful transfer of power. Institutions were newly established and the conduct of the election was remarkable in such a situation, he reiterated.
The IECC official opined reforms in electoral system, making a credible voters’ list, allocation of funds for the conduct of elections, strict observation of the process, appointment of eligible people to lead the process and awareness could further strengthen democracy in Afghanistan.
Chief executive post:
Sadat said the creation of executive post and its conversion to the post of prime minister with the approval of a Loya Jirga would be an unconstitutional step.
He said the politically agreed decision had no legal justification because there was no room for the post of chief executive or prime minister in the constitution.
He questioned the duties and responsibilities of the chief executive, asking what power he or she would exercise. Under the constitution the president has to exercise the executive powers. He warned the creation of the executive post would be a violation of the constitution and reduce the president’s own powers.

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