Voices on Afghanistan: Election monitor on how vote observed

Afghan election observers are volunteers who risked their lives in an effort to ensure transparency during Saturday's presidential vote, says Nader Nadery, chairman of the Free & Fair Election Forum in Afghanistan.

Afghan election monitors count the votes at a polling station in the northwestern city of Herat on April 5.  Aref Karimi / AFP Photo
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Chairman of the Free & Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan, Nader Nadery, explains how election monitors worked during the presidential vote. There were about 10,000 FEFA election observers spread out throughout the country, despite great personal danger. After widespread fraud in the 2009 election, Mr Nadery said that FEFA took the utmost care to unsure that it does not happen again.

Our observers, who are made up largely of volunteers, follow different reporting procedures and use standardised forms we call “checklists” to monitor the elections. Observers use three checklists to record if all of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) rules and procedures are being applied properly during the opening of the polls, the voting, the closing of polls and counting the counting of votes. Each checklist and each report will contain specific information on polling centres’ code number and station code number.

There will also be other reporting, which will be mostly via phone to our operation room on election day. These reports, along with reports of critical electoral manipulation, will be compiled to make our initial observation findings 48 hours later.

Monitors will look at what time the polling station opened, making sure the centres and stations open and close on time. The observers will record delays and note the reason for the delay – if there was any.

They will also check if the ballot boxes were opened in front of the candidates and voters? Were the ballots clean? Did they have serial numbers? Were they locked properly and stamped properly?

All those procedures will be watched.

The next checklist will look at how the voting was carried out. Were there people influencing voters? Were proxies voting on behalf of women? Was there voter intimidation? Was there campaigning going on in the vicinity of the polls? Were there campaign posters or pictures of candidates around the site of the polling station? Were police entering the stations? They have to be outside. Was there any government interference? Did any body attempted to stuff boxes with fraudulent votes?

All of these are important parts of the process that could undermine or promote the transparency and credibility of the elections.

The final checklist is about the procedures for closing the polling stations and counting the votes there. What time were the stations were closed? Was there any issues about what happened? Did the count happen at the station in front of the observers?

We sent more observers to places where we expect problems or fraud from the experience of the last elections in 2009.

As an example we deployed 500 observers in Balkh province. In the eastern city of Jalabad we have more than 500. In Kunar, we have close to 200. In Nuristan we have more than 130 observers.

When you look through the entire map of the country there are districts that are secure so we don’t deploy there because there are fewer people in the district or there are less expectations for fraud.

Once the polls are closed the vote will be counted at each station, by hand.

The result is sent to Kabul for computerised tally at the IEC.

The commission says it will take up to three to five days to get five per cent of the provisional results. Then it will be five days or even a week to finalise the results.

Then there is a period of adjudication of disputes. Then the final results. But it has to happen by the end of April to leave time for a run off if it is needed.

Who are the observers? They are social workers, volunteers.

I recently called some and asked: ‘What makes you want to do this?’

They say this is an obligation that we feel we have if we want to see democracy work here. If we want to see a peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan.

If they want this to happen they have to take some level of risk to make it succeed, they say.