News Summary, Oct 31

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Update: IEC rejects FEFA's claims about the invalidation of votes, saying that they were cancelled because they were confirmed to be fraudulent—either because of ballot stuffing, or because they were cast where no election had taken place. The IEC spokesman is quoted by one publication as saying the results might be announced towards the end of November.

This is our last daily summary, at least for now. We will be updating the Afghan2010 website with new material from time to time and will be sending occasional email updates . Media enquiries are still very welcome, but please send them to me by email and I'll make sure we'll get back to you promptly. Thanks for all your support, comments and contributions in the past couple of months, and DI looks forward to resuming the conversation soon. Don't forget you can subscribe to the Center for American Progress' full daily summary of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and related news here.

Jeremy Wagstaff
Democracy International
[email protected]

Afghanistan – Election

  • No Errors in Fraud Probe : IEC The Afghan election body has rejected the accusation of a watchdog that it acted irresponsibly in the process of fraud evaluation. On Friday, the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) claimed the Independent Election Commission’s invalidation of more than a million votes was “against the law” as most of the ballots were not evaluated in the presence of observers. FEFA had said the IEC had to check suspicious votes in the presence of candidate representatives and observers ahead of nullifying them. But a spokesman for the IEC, Noor Muhammad Noor, insisted the 1.3 million votes were cancelled after they were confirmed to be fraudulent. “These votes were cast in places where no election was held and ballot stuffing in favor of certain candidates had taken place. Therefore, their cancellation required no mechanism,” argued Noor. He said the IEC had enough evidence to invalidate the ballots. The commission would open the votes in the presence of observers where polling had happened. [Pajhwok]
  • Results End November? The Final Election Results Might be Announced towards the End of November is the headline in Dari daily 8 am, today. Nur Muhammad Nur, spokesperson of the IEC, told Radio Azadi that the final election results might be announced towards the end of November. Mr. Nur has said the delay is because of the ECC’s huge backlog in dealing with the electoral complaints. When the IEC receives ECC’s final report the final election results would be announced. Ahmad Zia Rafat, the ECC’s spokesperson says until now they have dealt with 2,500 electoral complaints--that is about 70 percent of the category A of the complaints received. Xinhua, meanwhile, quoted Rafat as expressing the hope "last week that expressed hope last week that Afghans could see the final result before Eidul Adha or Eidul Qurban the biggest annual religious festival falling on Nov. 15." Xinhua's piece, carried in the People's Daily, was headlined "Afghan election body has yet to announce election result although 6 weeks on" and began: "Even though six weeks have passed from Sept. 18 when millions of war-weary Afghans dared Taliban threats and cast their ballots in the country's second parliamentary election, the final results have yet to come out." [Xinhua]

Afghanistan – Wolesi Jirga

  • Parliament Urges Details on Iran Cash Aid Once again some Members of Parliament (MPs) on Saturday urged President Karzai and Finance Minister to provide details of Iran's cash aid to the President's Office. The MPs saw the money paid by Iran as against the Afghan constitution and shocking and they suggested that it should be legally pursued. The Afghan President and Finance Minister should provide details about the issue, some MPs said. "We will invite the President to the Lower House to give some answers and to explain how this happened and why the money was channeled through the Ministry of Finance," said an Afghan MP, Sayed Esaq Gilani. Another MP, Amanullah Paiman said: "We keep our promises. We will discuss the issue in the chiefs' committee by tomorrow and we will act based on the decision of the committee." Last week, a number of MPs had also walked out of Parliament as a sign of protest about the flow of Iranian cash aid to the Presidential Palace. Iran's cash aid to Afghan government was followed by some strong reactions. It was also discussed in Afghan parliament during the past week. The White House and the US State Department had also asked the Afghan government to shed light on what the money was spent on. Recently President Karzai admitted that Iran is providing money to the Presidential Palace since the formation of the interim administration. President Karzai had also said that Mr Daud Zai took the money from Iran government on his instruction and also expressed gratitude to Iran for his financial assistance. [TOLO]
  • Parliament and Government; the Contention will Continue A piece in Eqtidar-e-Milli, a Dari weekly, on Oct 30, 2010 According to the preliminary election results only about 30 percent of the seats in parliament is occupied by the previous members of parliament. This makes it difficult to understand the working relations between the government and the parliament. Some analysts believe that there would not be any difference between the attitudes of the coming parliament and the previous one towards the government. The parliament would remain a “yes man” for the government. Ahmad Behzad, an outgoing member of parliament from Herat, says: “we witness that in the first parliament government was able to dodge parliamentary oversight and form other extra-legal bodies to justify its sometimes overtly illegal policies.” However, Behzad says “not everything is in the hands of government. Good parliamentarians, those who have knowledge of parliamentary democracy and are committed to perform their duties as representative of the people properly are able to stop government’s illegal actions.” Furthermore, Behzad also says that this time around a number of really knowledgeable candidates, those who have shown to be very committed critics of government’s illegal policies have won. These new faces would increase the prestige of parliament and if they would be able to mobilize the people, they would give more political weight to the role of parliament says Behzad. The other important factor in regard to the role of parliament in Afghanistan is the role the international community plays, says Behzad. “If they would continuously ignore representatives of the people and would support the government’s illegitimate actions that would also weaken the role of parliament.” Moreover, Dad Norani, a political expert and journalist, thinks that there would not be any change in the relationship between parliament and government. Since, he says, in Afghanistan external factors such as the role of the international community is far more important than the political role of parliament or of the government.

Afghanistan – Security

  • Russia Russia has described Kabul's angry reaction to the first joint U.S.-Russia drugs raid in Afghanistan as "incomprehensible" and "not very understandable", saying that Afghanistan was informed of the operation, units from the country took part in the operation and in fact the operation was conducted by the Afghan ministry of the interior. President Hamid Karzai had demanded an explanation from NATO for carrying out  the raid on Afghan soil without his government’s permission: "No organisation or institution has the right to carry out such military operations inside the territory of our country without permission and agreement from the Islamic Government of Afghanistan," a statement from his office had said. His sensitivity to Russia's role is intriguing. Jonathan Steele in the Guardian looks at Russia's interests in Afghanistan and concludes that  "the irony is that Moscow is less willing to see a US withdrawal than Obama appears to be. Medvedev and Putin will not send their own troops, but they firmly want the Americans to stay." [AFP] [Reuters] [Pajhwok] [Guardian]
  • Talks A helpful Reuters summary of where we stand on the "talks" between Karzai and the Taliban and the key players. [Reuters]
  • UN role Horia Mosadiq, a human rights activist from Afghanistan, writes skeptically of the peace process and looks at the UN role in reconciliation. " Afghans are very skeptical about their future, and there is not much hope left when no one is honest about their agendas in Afghanistan. President Karzai says he wants to negotiate with the foot soldiers of the Taleban but his calls are addressed to Mulla Omar. The international community speaks about a long-term engagement, but is clearly looking for quick exit strategies. What makes Afghans even more frustrated is that everyone has their own strategy in Afghanistan but no one has any strategy for Afghanistan and the Afghan people." [AAN]
  • Corruption The Sunday Times' Marie Colvin writes about indictments about to be laid before a special court against three former ministers. Integrity Watch, an Afghanistan-based group, last week estimated that Afghan citizens paid about $US1 billion in bribes last year. One man told how he had to pay bribe after bribe to get his land registered, starting with 100 afghanis ($US2.32) each to four people in an anteroom just to "get my papers to the next office" and continuing until he had paid more than $US1000. [Australian]