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Ed Webb

Afghanistan News October 3, 2009 - 0 views

  • What I Saw at the Afghan Election By Peter W. Galbraith The Washington Post Sunday, October 4, 2009
  • For weeks, Eide had been denying or playing down the fraud in Afghanistan's recent presidential election, telling me he was concerned that even discussing the fraud might inflame tensions in the country. But in my view, the fraud was a fact that the United Nations had to acknowledge or risk losing its credibility with the many Afghans who did not support President Hamid Karzai.
  • As many as 30 percent of Karzai's votes were fraudulent, and lesser fraud was committed on behalf of other candidates.
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  • at least 1,500 polling centers (out of 7,000) were to be located in places so insecure that no one from the IEC, the Afghan National Army or the Afghan National Police had ever visited them
  • On Election Day, these sites produced hundreds of thousands of phony Karzai votes.
  • The U.N. mission set up a 24-hour election center during the voting and in the early stages of the counting. My staff collected evidence on hundreds of cases of fraud around the country and, more important, gathered information on turnout in key southern provinces where few voters showed up but large numbers of votes were being reported. Eide ordered us not to share this data with anyone, including the Electoral Complaints Commission, a U.N.-backed Afghan institution legally mandated to investigate fraud. Naturally, my colleagues wondered why they had taken the risks to collect this evidence if it was not to be used.
  • Since my disagreements with Eide went public, Eide and his supporters have argued that the United Nations had no mandate to interfere in the Afghan electoral process. This is not technically correct. The U.N. Security Council directed the U.N. mission to support Afghanistan's electoral institutions in holding a "free, fair and transparent" vote, not a fraudulent one. And with so much at stake -- and with more than 100,000 U.S. and coalition troops deployed in the country -- the international community had an obvious interest in ensuring that Afghanistan's election did not make the situation worse.
  • By itself, a runoff is no antidote for Afghanistan's electoral challenges. The widespread problems that allowed for fraud in the first round of voting must be addressed. In particular, all ghost polling stations should be removed from the books ("closed" is not the right word since they never opened), and the election staff that facilitated the fraud must be replaced. Afghanistan's pro-Karzai election commission will not do this on its own. Fixing those problems will require resolve from the head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan -- a quality that so far has been lacking.
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