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Afghan Elections Hailed; Fraud a Concern

  • Meredith Buel

A policeman stands guard outside a polling station in Kabul as Afghans wanting to vote queue outside before it opens, April 5, 2014.

A policeman stands guard outside a polling station in Kabul as Afghans wanting to vote queue outside before it opens, April 5, 2014.

The ballots are being counted in Afghanistan after an election being hailed as a success. At least 7 million people voted, despite death threats from the Taliban. Now analysts are watching closely to see how the votes are tallied and if fraud will damage the outcome.

It may take weeks before the election results are official.

Preliminary indications suggest a high turnout. Officials say about 60 percent of the registered 12 million voters went to the polls.

Regional analysts say that showing is far better than expected, and amounts to a sharp rejection of the Taliban.

Nargis Nehan directs Equality for Peace and Democracy, a Kabul civil action group.

“We demonstrated that on Election Day to the rest of the world that actually we believe in democracy, we believe in stability and we said no to war and we said no to conflict and terrorism," said Nehan.

The Taliban had pledged to disrupt the polling by threatening voters and anyone associated with the election.

While insurgents staged attacks in the days before the voting, they did not deter many Afghans from going to the polls.

Despite the turnout, analysts say that for the election to be legitimate in the eyes of Afghans and the international community, it must be perceived as fair.

In the last presidential vote five years ago, there was widespread fraud, which created a political crisis that hurt relations between President Hamid Karzai and the United States.

Davood Moradian is the director of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies in Kabul.

“Unfortunately there is the precedent of the 2009 presidential election. There is a huge question mark over the extent of the fraud in this election, and the onus is on the Afghan government and the electoral body to establish that this time is different," said Moradian.

Nargis Nehan says some fraud is inevitable, but she says the election still can be credible if the outcome is accepted as valid.

“It is going to be totally unrealistic to say that you are going to have absolutely clean and fair and transparent in the voting result. But at the same time I see much less chance of corruption and embezzlement in comparison with last time," she said.

U.S. officials are encouraging the winner of the presidential election to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States.

President Karzai has refused to sign the arrangement that would allow some U.S. and NATO troops to stay in the country after the end of this year.

All the leading Afghan candidates for president have indicated they will sign the deal.

Michael Kugelman is the senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center, a policy research organization in Washington.

“By having these troops in Afghanistan, this residual presence after this year, I think there is a psychological dimension. It would provide a psychological boost to Afghan security forces and to Afghanistan that the international community is not forgetting, and not abandoning Afghanistan," said Kugelman.

Preliminary results for the elections are expected later this month.