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First Observation Report of the 2010 Election Observation Mission: Nomination of Candidates

June 16, 2010

Kabul – June 2010

The Nomination Period

The first phase of this year’s national elections, the nomination and verification of candidates, took place between April 20 and May 4.

FEFA deployed long-term observers to the capitals of 31 provinces during this first phase of the electoral process. Observers interviewed 700 prospective candidates, 115 of them women, to gauge their perceptions of the nomination process and external factors influencing their ability to participate.

Using a combination of open source reports and first-hand accounts from prospective candidates, observers also monitored the overall security situation in their provinces and reported on specific threats against the electoral process and individuals connected with it.

Concerns of Prospective Candidates During the Nomination Period

During their interviews with prospective candidates, FEFA observers asked the interviewees what they saw as their most serious challenge heading into the election. The most frequent response given was that the new Electoral Law, specifically its stipulation that candidates provide 1,000 voter registration cards and a non-refundable guarantee of 3,000 Afghanis, was the biggest entry hurdle.

Women interviewees stressed that the monetary guarantee is a cause of special concern among women candidates, who generally lack access to financial resources comparable to those available to male contenders.

Prospective candidates were asked to list obstacles they believed might prevent them from advancing in the next phase of the elections.  For this question, the three most commonly given answers were:

  • Insecurity resulting in difficulty traveling outside provincial capitals
  • Abusive local powerbrokers running in the same area
  • The possibility of biased treatment by IEC staff

When explaining their fear of IEC partiality, prospective candidates generally referenced the disputed results of the 2009 presidential and provincial council elections and the perception that the IEC unfairly favored some candidates over others in its decisions.

Security Environment

Security in nomination centers, located in provincial capitals, was sufficient to allow the process to proceed without significant disruptions, FEFA observers found. Even in areas where security incidents took place, the process was not halted. Outside provincial capitals, however, the picture was vastly different.

In many provinces, candidates did not feel safe traveling from their home districts to the nomination centers, and travel by road was seen by prospective candidates in Farah, Nimroz, Uruzgan, Jowzjan and Paktika as especially dangerous. Prospective candidates in these provinces described the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on roads as an obstacle to advancing in the electoral process.

Interviewees also cited concern over running against powerful incumbent candidates with histories of human rights violations and ties to illegal armed groups, as well as candidates backed by local powerbrokers. Candidates interviewed by FEFA observers expressed fears that they and their supporters would receive threats or be subject to violent intimidation by powerful candidates.

Intimidation of Candidates

The nomination process took place in an environment of intimidation in many areas.

Night letters warning individuals not to run in the elections were issued by the Taliban in several districts in Khost (Yaqubi, Lakan, Shamal, Tera, Gorbal, Ali Sher, Bak), Logar (Baraki Barak, Charkh, Puli Alam), and Paktika (Sharana, Meta Khan, Sar Hawza).

In Logar, night letters were directed specifically at women candidates, and warned that women standing for election would be targeted for violence. Mines laid along roads in Baraki Barak, Charkh, and Puli Alam districts during the nomination period caused travel difficulties for prospective candidates.

The night letters in Paktika and Khost provinces were also signed by the Taliban and contained threats of violence against individuals standing for election, but were not gender specific.

Women Candidates

Women put themselves forward during the candidate nomination process in all 34 provinces, and the total number of women candidates increased from 335 in 2005 to 413 this year. [1]

Out of 34 provinces, 18 experienced an increase in the number of women candidates, 13 saw a decrease, and 3 saw no change. Kabul experienced by far the greatest increase in the number of women candidates, from 50 candidates in 2005 to 105 in 2010. Gains and losses were in the single digits in all other provinces.

Notably, the number of women candidates also increased slightly or remained the same in several highly insecure provinces, including Helmand, Kandahar, Maidan Wardak, Uruzgan, and Nuristan, and fell in several relatively secure provinces, such as Panjshir, Balkh, and Bamiyan.

Nevertheless, the majority of women candidates interviewed by FEFA cited insecurity as one of their chief sources of apprehension about the elections. Observers expressed concern that insecurity, especially on major roads, would have a disproportionate restraining effect on the campaigns of women candidates later in the electoral process. The gender-specific night letters directed at women candidates in Logar were another cause for concern.

Table 1. The number of women candidates, by province, during the 2005 parliamentary elections and 2010 parliamentary elections.

Province

Number of Women Candidates in 2005 Wolesi Jirga Elections Number of Women Candidates in 2010 Wolesi Jirga Elections

Net Change in Number of Women Candidates Between 2005 and 2010

Badakhshan 9 17 +8
Badghis 5 4 -1
Baghlan 14 12 -2
Balkh 16 14 -2
Bamiyan 7 6 -1
Daikundi 5 6 +1
Farah 3 5 +2
Faryab 10 10 0
Ghazni 12 13 +1
Ghor 8 12 +4
Helmand 6 7 +1
Herat 18 24 +6
Jowzjan 8 6 -2
Kabul 50 105 +55
Kandahar 11 12 +1
Kapisa 6 12 +6
Khost 10 5 -5
Kunar 8 2 -6
Kunduz 15 12 -3
Laghman 8 7 -1
Logar 11 8 -3
Maidan Wardak 9 9 0
Nangarhar 18 24 +6
Nimroz 4 3 -1
Nuristan 6 7 +1
Paktika 4 5 +1
Paktia 5 5 0
Panjshir 4 2 -2
Parwan 8 11 +3
Samangan 5 7 +2
Sari Pul 7 12 +5
Takhar 13 11 -2
Uruzgan 2 3 +1
Zabul 3 7 +4
Women Kuchi Candidates 7 8 + 1
TOTALS 335 413 +78

Media Coverage

FEFA observers reported that few members of the domestic media covered the nomination period, and no foreign journalists were observed reporting on the process.

Staffing and Materials at IEC Nomination Centers

Though the supply of election materials at IEC nomination centers in the 31 provinces FEFA observers were deployed in was generally adequate overall, observers reported pervasive staffing shortages.

Shortages of female staff were observed at all 31 nomination centers FEFA covered. This resulted in administrative delays that inconvenienced women aspirant candidates. Of particular concern to observers was the widespread lack of women photographers present to photograph prospective candidates during registration.

FEFA Recommendations from Observation of the Candidate Nomination Period

  1. The disagreement between the presidential palace and Wolesi Jirga over the new Electoral Law complicated the nomination process, as the Electoral Law amendments issued by presidential decree earlier this year have been applied by the IEC, despite their rejection by the Wolesi Jirga. FEFA encourages both institutions to resolve the matter and avoid confusion in the application of the law during the remainder of the electoral process.
  2. Insecurity is having a predictably negative impact on the electoral process. FEFA calls on Afghan and international security forces to increase their efforts to protect candidates and election workers not only on Election Day, but during all phases of the electoral process and in the weeks immediately following its conclusion.
  3. Because insecurity does not affect all candidates equally, FEFA encourages the Ministry of Interior to conduct individual security assessments for each candidate and coordinate with the Ministry of Defense to provide security to candidates accordingly.
  4. Greater coordination between the IEC, ECC and international organizations is needed to ensure the smooth running of the election process. FEFA encourages these actors to increase the frequency of coordination meetings and prioritize provincial level cooperation.
  5. Women’s participation and political rights are still under threat, as the shortages of women staff at the IEC nomination centers and intimidation of women candidates during the nomination period illustrate. FEFA calls on all stakeholders to take special measures to ensure women’s participation and uphold their political rights throughout the electoral process.
  6. FEFA calls on the IEC to redouble its efforts to combat fraud during the 2010 elections.

[1] 2005 data obtained from the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB). 2010 data obtained from the Independent Election Commission (IEC). Total number of women candidates in 2010 corrected from earlier report.

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