Electoral monitoring smooth amid doubts on data transfer
Feature Stories - October 13, 2019

Electoral monitoring smooth amid doubts on data transfer

KABUL (Pajhwok): The transfer of sensitive electoral materials from all 34 provinces to the central office of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Kabul is complete and the subsequent tabulation of the ballot papers are ongoing smoothly. Some candidate agents and citizen observers, however, are not pleased with the process of uploading results data to the main server system.

The preliminary results of the September 28 presidential polls contested by 16 candidates is expected to be announced on October 19, while the final results are scheduled for announcement on November 7, depending on the resolution of all formal complaints.

Some sources and presidential candidates claim massive rigging in the presidential polls and demand the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) impartially address the more than 4,000 registered complaints.

According to the IEC, 93 persons, including 35 representatives of presidential candidates, monitor the ongoing results gathering process at the central office in two shifts.

Other accredited monitors include 31 representatives of political parties, six international representatives, six observers of national watchdogs, special guests and a media outlet representative.

A Pajhwok Afghan News journalist visited the IEC headquarters in Kabul to closely observe and report on the ongoing process.

He saw agents and observers monitoring sensitive election materials arriving from the provinces and noted that IEC workers were busy comparing the transmitted results data against images of the results forms as sent by the biometric voter verification devices.

Observers said they had no complaints in this regard about the IEC’s work process.

The receipt and data entry of election-related information to the IEC’s computer server is another part of the process being conducted at the IEC central office

According to IEC officials, the agents and observers could monitor this part of the results tabulation process through a screen in a separate room at the national tally center.

IEC officials did not allow the Pajhwok reporter to visit the room from where the process of information transfer to the server could be monitored but the reporter was able to convince four candidate agents or citizen observers to share their views regarding this part of the results management process.

One agent and one observer were satisfied with the process, but the remaining two said they were unable to properly monitor the process.

Ameer Mohammad Muzafar, observer of the State Builder team led by Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, said that the IEC provided them all needed facilities for the monitoring process.

“We can observe in person all materials that come from provinces, organization of election materials, biometric devices and other parts of the monitoring process. In some cases, the IEC officials did not allow cell phone which is their policy and we don’t have any reservation and don’t interfere in their affairs,” he said.

According to Muzafar, their observation team faced no problem in the ongoing monitoring process.

Adel Stanikzai, representative of Ibrar Monitoring Organisation, said: “All facilities are provided for monitoring but some individuals here behave like dictators and they are unaware about IEC rules and regulations. They raise irrelevant objections in certain cases.”

According to Stanikzai, these people wanted to create disputes with IEC officials at a time when the IEC officials had asked everyone to share their reservations when necessary.

Some observers are not pleased with the monitoring process

Haroon Motarif, observer of the Stability and Partnership team, said that the IEC monitoring process was conducted in different phases.

“It is difficult to properly monitor the process of transferring information to the central server.”

He said agents and observers could only monitor this part through screen and could not point out fraud or rigging if it should exist.

“On the screen, you can see IEC officials busy in their routine work; we don’t actually know what they are doing. When we raised this question, we received no answer in hours.”

Motarif said agents and observers should be able to closely monitor the entire tabulation process and should be able to prevent fraud if there is any.

Nasir Nasirzada, observer of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), said they were fully facilitated to conduct observation in other areas apart from the transfer of information to the server.

He believed strong vigilance and observation of the data entry of information to the server was required.

“We can see everything in other parts of the process but the most important part which is data entry to the main server; we should know these materials are transferred to the server transparently.”

He also said observers could not record evidence when they entered the data transfer room because officials had collected their mobile phones.

All facilities available for watchdogs

IEC official Zabihullah Sadaat said that all facilities needed for monitoring had been provided to election watchdogs.

He said observers could monitor the arrival of sensitive election materials from provinces, biometric devices, ballot papers, and digitization process and data entry to the main election server on a screen in a particular room.

Sadaat said the monitoring of data entry process on screen was part of IEC policy and observers were provided monitoring facility under the same policy.

He added: “IEC keeps nothing hidden from election observers and watchdogs; they can observe everything in order to restore public trust in the process.”

He said IEC had tasked some individuals to answer observers’ questions. He asked watchdogs and observers to behave in professional manner with the IEC, not politically.

Sadaat demanded that watchdogs and observers should not disseminate false propaganda regarding election and refrain from spoiling public mindset.

Presenting an example regarding unprofessional behavior, he said, during the 2018 Wolesi Jirga polls, election watchdogs spread rumors that around 5,000 biometric devices had been robbed. “Is this a professional behavior,” he questioned.

Ahmad Sohaib Hasrat

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