KABUL (Pajhwok): Different voter turnout figures from southern Kandahar province have raised questions, causing cynicism among psephologists.
The figures announced by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) head office and its provincial branch are starkly different, analysis claim.
A number of experts and the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) emphasise on an exact turnout figure. They argue different numbers may lead to rigging.
The presidential ballot featuring 13 candidates was conducted on Sept 28. The election panel says preliminary results are being tallied.
Maulana Mohammad Abdullah, deputy chief of IEC, wrote on his Facebook page about the provincial votes on Monday morning. He says the voter turnout figures were submitted to the head office late on Sunday.
At 151 polling centres, 18,254 votes were cast in Kandahar province. This post by Maulana has been liked by 1,100 Facebook users, commented on by 352 and shared by 127.
Radio Azadi also published the list shared by the IEC deputy chief. However, many social media users criticised the different numbers of Kandahar voters.
Muslim Sherzad tweeted the IEC announced hour ago the voter turnout in Kandahar was 182,540. But the IEC provincial branch told Tolo News 17,000 votes had been cast in Kandahar.
Sherzad wrote: “There is a difference of about 12,540 votes between the figures announced by IEC central and provincial offices. Is it not an issue?”
Clash of opinion:
Amal Abdullah, the Kandahar election commission head, told Pajhwok: “According to information, about 170,000 people participated in Saturday’s ballot, but the number is not final.”
Pajhwok shared the different figures regarding the turnout in Kandahar with IEC Secretary Habib Rahman Nang.
Nanag explained the chart published by the IEC deputy chief had been prepared on the basis of telephonic information and changes in the table could not be ruled out.
Responding to a question, he said the figures published were not final yet. He suggested some mistake might have been made by workers in providing the turnout figures.
Nanag promised contacting the IEC provincial office to get exact information regarding the turnout. Pajhwok made many telephone calls to get an update, but Nanag could not be contacted.
At midnight, the provincial office head said: “About 180,000 people cast votes but the number is still being checked and it may be lower.”
Asked why he put the number at 170,000 in the morning and then at 180,000, he replied: “I didn’t provide details that were included in the list; the number may have been received from other employees. I don’t know anything about the basis for the list.”
Possibility of Rigging:
Bashir Bezhan, an expert, called the difference in turnout figures from Kandahar questionable. The conflicting numbers indicated the IEC was not impartial and it could lead to a crisis, he commented.
Yousaf Rashid, head of FEFA, claimed the varying figures for voter turnout had made election watchdogs, observers and presidential candidates suspicious.
He asked the election bodies to move cautiously because the national process might face challenges in case of doubts about accuracy of figures.
He told the election commissions to learn from the fate of the officials who were currently in prison for providing conflicting figures during the previous election.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) says more than two million votes were cast at 3,736 polling centres in 29 provinces of the country.
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