KABUL (Pajhwok): Experts say election law violations by a number of presidential candidates are worrisome and the institutions concerned should get tough with offenders to ensure the legitimacy of the polls.
Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) says 53 complaints have so far been registered about campaign rule violations. The panel has answered 70 percent of them.
Eighteen candidates including President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Exectuive Officer (CEO) Dr. Abdullah Abdullah are in run for the September 28 presidential ballot.
The presidential election campaign got under way on July 28 and would continue until September 26.
According to IECC, a number of electoral teams including that of Ashraf Ghani, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Rahmatullah Nabil and Faramarz Tamanna, violated the rules even before the formal launch of the electioneering.
President Ghani’s trips to Kandahar and Zabul, where he inaugurated projects, Abdullah’s visits to Mazar-i-Sharif and Shiberghan cities, Rahmatullah Nabil’s visit to Balkh and Tamanna’s travel to Herat before the electioneering are among election law violation.
According to another report, findings of the IECC show Ghani used government resources such as buildings, equipment and vehicles during his electioneering. Additionally, government servants also attended the gatherings he addressed.
Abdullah’s promise to create the posts of prime minister and third vice-president was also dubbed as an offence by IECC.
None of the candidates has so far declared their assets. Election oversight institutes, during a conference on July 4, accused the runners of launching campaigns before schedule.
In one of his speeches, Abdullah pointed to Ghani’s mistake in reading a poem of Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Rumi and said: “Now we add poets (to our discussions); they now introduce themselves as heirs of Maulana and Bedil. It is plain disrespect to the towering literary personalities when their poems are recited in such a way).”
Pointing to the previous presidential election results, which the CEO did not accept and were protested by his supporters, Ghani asked his competitors not to stir the streets or reject the results if his team won again.
Portraits of some of candidates have been torn in some parts of the country.
Interference by candidates and their supporters in electioneering of rivals, damaging posters, early or late (beyond deadline) electioneering and participation of government workers in such gatherings are against the law.
Under the regulations, candidates, political parties and coalitions cannot use public assets and properties during their campaigns unless they are provided to all runners by the institutions concerned.
Experts and election oversight institutes say that ignoring the violations would harm the legitimacy of the vote and the results might be unacceptable to some.
Mohammad Yousuf Rashid, head of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FFEFA), said the legitimacy of the ballot would be questioned if violations are ignored and the relevant law not applied to all candidates. The IEC should also exercise its authority to check violations.
Gul Rahman Qazi, a legal expert, also stressed a strong response to such violations and said: “The continuation of this situation will lead to a crisis over election results.”
He said Afghanistan had a long history of electoral offences. The violations committed would question the legitimacy of the polls, he feared.
Qazi believed the ground had not been paved for free, fair and credible election. He accused the electoral commissions of incompetency in implementing the law.
Abdul Subhan Misbah, deputy head of the Afghanistan Lawyers Association, warned: “If regulations and laws are not observed, the election will have no credibility and the result would be unacceptable to the Afghans and the international community,”
He said ignoring election law violations would lead to serious consequences and the IEC should see to it all runners respected the law.
Mohammad Farooq Baraki, a political analyst, said violations of the law by candidates would negatively impact the public mind and people would not trust them even if they won the vote.
He asked the people not to expect a transparent election, considering the performance of the election commissions and brazen violations of the relevant law.
Registration of complaints:
Mohammad QasimElyasi, spokesman and member for the Independent Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC), said 53 complaints had been registered so far.
He added 70 percent of the complaints had been addressed, but there was need for coordination among the election bodies, watchdogs, political parties, media and candidates to monitor the process.
Without going into details, he said most of the complaints had been filed against the State Maker Team led by President Ashraf Ghani and Stability and Partnership team headed by Dr. Abdullah.
He added the IECC did not initially receive complaints regarding the use of government assets in election campaign by the State Maker, Stability and Partnership teams but the findings of the commission show the two teams had been warned against such practices in advance and were told to fully respect the guideline of the IEC.
Referring to the campaign financial expenditure report, Elyasi said the two teams had not submitted details of their assets. Both are bound to declare their assets.
Election teams in denial:
Javed Faisal, spokesman for the State Maker team, rejected the launch of campaign ahead of schedule. He said some of their events were dubbed as campaign gatherings to damage the image of the State Maker team.
Regarding the presence of government officials at their campaign events, Faisal said a strategy had been devised to keep public servants away from such meetings. A government employee participating in election eventswould face legal action from the IECC, he continued.
Asked why the State Maker did not submitit’s a report about assets of its leaders to the election body, Faisal replied a report of financial expenditure had been prepared and would be handed over to the election bodies.
Earlier, acting foreign minister SalahuddinRabbani was fined 15,000 afsfor participating in the election gathering of the Stability and Partnership Team.
However, FaridonKhwazoon, spokesman for Abdullah’s team, said no government official had ever taken part in their election campaign gatherings.
About Rabbani’s presence in the election gathering, he said the foreign minister also led a political party besides holding a government position. The law was silent on the issue, he concluded.
Khuwaja Basir Fitri
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