Afghanistan: Election Watchdog Calls for Independent Review of Candidate Vetting
Kabul, July 17, 2010 – Vetting of candidates for Afghanistan’s 2010 parliamentary elections was carried with a troubling lack of transparency and the government should provide the public with a full accounting of the process, said Afghanistan’s largest election monitor on Thursday.
In a report published on its website, the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) described a vetting process that left many candidates with ties to militias on the ballot, while potentially innocent candidates were banned without due process.
“I am very disappointed with the lack of a proper vetting process and the fact that some well-known individuals with links to illegal armed groups were included this time again,” FEFA chairman Nader Nadery said.
A total of 36 candidates –out of approximately 2,500— were excluded from this year’s elections based on ties to illegal armed groups (IAGs) in accordance with Afghanistan’s electoral law, which stipulates that individuals ‘who practically command or are members of unofficial military forces or armed groups’ cannot run for office.
During Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections in 2005, the number of candidates banned by joint Afghan-international election bodies for having ties to IAGs was 35, a number human rights groups then argued fell far short of reflecting the actual number of candidates tied to militias and permitted notorious human rights abusers to serve in the parliament.
The candidates of 2010 were investigated by an all-Afghan commission chaired by the Independent Election Commission and composed of representatives of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense, and National Directorate of Security.
FEFA’s concerns regarding the vetting process included the small number of candidates disqualified, and the lack of information available about the process itself –the criteria by which candidates were indentified, how much time they were permitted to defend themselves, and the standard of proof used by the security bodies in determining if they should be disqualified.
“Without a transparent process, we cannot know if potentially guilty candidates were exonerated or potentially innocent candidates were disqualified,” said FEFA executive director Jandad Spinghar. “Decisions can be made based on politics and power, instead of a fair application of the law.”
In its report on the challenge period of the 2010 elections, FEFA asked the electoral and vetting institutions to publicly release a joint report on the vetting process, and called for an independent panel, including representatives of civil society groups, to review the vetting process after the elections.