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Third Observation Report of the 2010 Election Observation Mission: The Campaign Period from June 23 to July 15

August 21, 2010

Kabul – August 2010

The Campaign Period

The campaign period of Afghanistan’s 2010 parliamentary elections kicked off on June 23 and will run until September 16. FEFA’s long-term observers were present in the capitals of all 34 provinces to observe the campaigns directly at the provincial level and indirectly at the district level through volunteer district observers. During the first 3 weeks of campaigns, observers reported electoral violations and abuses of state resource by candidates, campaign staff, and government employees.

Observers also used a combination of open source reports and interviews with candidates, electoral workers, and citizens to monitor the overall security situation in their provinces, and reported specific threats against individuals involved in the electoral process.

This report should be viewed as an illustrative snapshot of the launch of the 2010 campaign season at the provincial level.

Security Environment

Negative security trends reported during earlier phases of the electoral process worsened during the early weeks of the campaign period in the southern, southeastern and western regions of the country, as well as some areas of the north. Threats by insurgents postponed, disrupted and prevented campaigning in these areas and individuals involved in the electoral process were directly targeted for violence and widespread, systematic intimidation.

Fear of insurgent violence forced many candidates to modify their campaign strategies, and campaign more quietly, to reduce the risk of becoming high-profile targets. Candidates interviewed by FEFA observers in Kunar said Taliban would kill any candidate who ventured beyond her or his home district to campaign. FEFA observers in Paktia and Kandahar reported that security conditions were so dire in those provinces that candidates were not intending to openly campaign at all. In Farah, candidates chose to conduct private meetings with tribal elders instead of campaigning among the general population. Similar situations were reported in Maidan Wardak and Uruzgan, where campaigns began with minimal outreach to voters, and female candidates were told by tribal leaders and local government officials to avoid public campaigning altogether. After receiving death threats from Taliban in her area, a female candidate from Ghor moved to Kabul, and two campaign staff in Kunduz were detained and assaulted by Taliban in Amam district.

In Logar, campaigns turned deadly for at least 5 people involved in them during July. FEFA’s Logar observers reported that a shopkeeper in Baraki Barak district was killed by Taliban for displaying a campaign poster in his shop. After the murder, local Taliban distributed night letters warning the general population to remove all campaign posters or suffer the shopkeeper’s fate.  According to observers, the population immediately complied with the Taliban demands. Two brothers killed in a nighttime house raid were among 4 other civilians killed by Taliban for taking part in campaigns. Logar Taliban also kidnapped the brother of a candidate.

Night letters, threatening phone calls and in-person threats against candidates, campaign staff, voters and the general population were reported by FEFA observers in 16 provinces during just the first three weeks of the campaign period.

Table 1 Threats against candidates, campaign staff, voters and members of the general population reported by FEFA observers between June 23, 2010 and July 15, 2010.

Province Threat type Areas/Districts Targets Message Claim of responsibility or known perpetrators
Badakhshan Threatening phone calls Unclear Specific candidate (female) Cease campaigning, threat of violence None
Badghis Night letters Bala Morghab, Ganj Candidates Do not participate in the electoral process, threat of violence Taliban
Baghlan Threatening phone calls Unclear Specific candidate (female) Cease campaigning Community members
Balkh Night letters Unclear General population Do not participate in the electoral process None
Farah Night letters Posht Road Tribal leader Do not cooperate with the government Taliban
Ghazni Night letters Nahor, Jaghori, Qara Bagh, Maltam Candidates, campaign workers, campaign supporters Do not participate in the electoral process, threat of violence Taliban
Ghor Unclear Unclear Specific candidate (female) We are going to kill you Taliban
Ghor Threatening phone calls Unclear Specific candidate (female) Threat of violence None
Ghor Night letters Unclear Specific candidate (female) The letters called for this candidate’s posters to be ripped None
Ghazni Threatening phone calls Unclear Two candidates (female) Cease campaigning None
Herat Unclear Unclear Specific candidate (female) Cease campaigning None
Kabul Night letters Sorubi General population Do not participate in electoral process, threat of violence Taliban
Khost Night letters Lakan, Ali Shir, Bak Candidates and election workers Do not participate in the electoral process, threat of violence Taliban, Hezb-i-Islami
Khost Threatening phone calls Unclear Female candidates Threat of violence Taliban
Kunduz Unclear Unclear Specific candidate (female) Cease campaigning, threat of violence Taliban
Logar Night letters Baraki Barak, Charkh, Kharwar Motorists Do not put campaign posters on your car Taliban
Logar Night letters Baraki Barak General population If you display campaign posters, you will be killed Taliban
Nangarhar Night letters Chawk Talashi, Jalalabad city, Wama Men, general population, candidates Stop shaving your beards, do not participate in the electoral process, threat of violence Taliban
Nangarhar House to house in-person threats. Darunta General population If you obtain a voter registration card, we will cut off your hand Taliban
Paktika Night letters Sadozay General population Do not participate in the electoral process Taliban
Parwan Night letters Near the provincial chamber of commerce General population Warning against campaigning or voting for a specific candidate None
Parwan Threatening phone calls Saiadan Specific candidate (female) Cease campaigning None
Uruzgan Night letters Shin Guli, Lablan, Landyana General population, specific candidate (male) Do not participate in the electoral process,

cease campaigning


Thought it should be emphasized that the vast majority of candidates countrywide conducted their campaigns peacefully, rivalries between a minority of candidates and the illegal behavior of local powerbrokers running for office posed additional security risks. Incidents reported to FEFA during the first three weeks of the campaign period included the following:

  • Death threats were exchanged between two candidates in Takhar, and a different Takhar candidate promised to distribute guns to voters who swore on the Holy Quran they would support him on Election Day.
  • A female candidate in Badakhshan received word of an assassination plot orchestrated by one of her opponents.
  • Threats of violence were exchanged between rival candidates in Daikundi.
  • In Ghor, a campaign manager was beaten by supporters of a rival campaign and a local powerboker running for election threatened and harassed rival candidates.
  • A female candidate in Faryab and her campaign staff were threatened by a local powerbroker. This candidate told FEFA that her bodyguards and the bodyguards of a rival candidate clashed violently, resulting in the female candidate’s expulsion from the district she was campaigning in at the time.

Inadequate security in campaign launch venues was raised as a concern by candidates in 14 provinces – Badghis, Balkh, Farah, Ghor, Helmand, Kandahar, Kunduz, Logar, Nangarhar, Nimroz, Paktika, Parwan, Uruzgan and Zabul.  And frustration with the provision of security by national security forces was expressed to FEFA observers in Ghor, Nangarhar, Uruzgan and Zabul. Candidates in these provinces complained to observers that the local police were unresponsive to their requests for protection, or provided security only to candidates favored by local security officials.

FEFA observers in Nangarhar reported that one favored candidate in that province was provided two police cars full of officers for his campaign, while other candidates were refused any police protection. A nearly identical case was reported by observers in Jawzjan. In Ghor, security forces took part in campaign events organized by a notorious local powerbroker, and observers in Jowzjan, Kabul, Paktia, Samangan and Takhar reported uniformed members of the security forces participating in campaign events and local police commanders urging residents to support specific candidates.

Women’s Participation

Women continue to face disproportionate obstacles to their political participation in the 2010 elections. Widespread, organized intimidation efforts targeting women involved in the elections, and grave risks to women’s physical security were reported by observers at the outset of the campaign period.

Of the 10 threats directed at individual candidates reported by FEFA observers, 9 targeted women.  Female candidates were subjected to persistent, threatening phone calls, often late at night, verbal threats, and night letters warning them to cease campaigning or face violent retribution. Threats against women’s participation in general were also reported.

Taliban either claimed responsibility for or were widely known to have issued about one third of all reported threats against female candidates. The majority of other reported threats lacked claims of responsibility, but were generally attributed to a mixture of local powerbrokers, rival candidates, and community members opposed to women’s involvement in public life.

Observers also reported other forms of harassment of female candidates and their campaigns.  Female candidates in Herat and Badghis were attacked with stones and women’s campaign posters were torn down or defaced in several provinces.

In much of the country, the ability of female candidates to carry out campaigns at all was seriously limited by not only insecurity and harassment, but also by systemic inequalities. Women candidates faced greater obstacles funding their campaigns and struggled more than their male counterparts finding venues for campaign events and obtaining access to media.

Electoral Violations

Government employees, including governors and ministerial officials, were observed campaigning for candidates in Badghis, Balkh, Daikundi, Helmand, Jowzjan, Kabul, Khost, Nuristan, Paktia, Panjshir, Takhar and Uruzgan during the first three weeks of the campaigns. Abuses of state property and resources generally accompanied the involvement of government officials in campaigns. At a campaign rally in Balkh, a public health official distributed insecticide to supporters of his favored candidate.  In Jowzjan, a Ministry of Education official allowed his office to be used for campaign activities. A candidate in Heart distributed grain from the Ministry of Agriculture to internally displaced persons in an attempt to buy votes, and candidates in Nimroz used cars from the provincial governor’s office for campaign travel.

Abuses of state property, premises and resources were most prevalent among candidates who formerly served in official positions and candidates with family ties to government authorities, according to observer reports. Common violations included use of government vehicles for campaign travel, recruitment of state employees, and use of government offices and materials for campaign activities.

Campaigning was conducted in mosques and schools in the face of bans on the use of both venue types for campaign activities. Observers reported that mosques and schools were used by candidates to launch campaigns and rally supporters in Balkh, Daikundi, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghor, Kabul, and Kapisa. Where public schools were used for campaign activities, teachers and administrators were often relatives of candidates or were candidates themselves. In a particularly serious case reported by FEFA observers in Takhar, a public school principal urged her staff and students to vote for her in the election and distributed voter registration cards to underage students.

Under Afghanistan’s Electoral Law, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) and Provincial Electoral Complaints Commissions (PECCs) have jurisdiction to “consider issues within their jurisdiction on their own initiative and in the absence of a formal complaint of challenge.”[1] Yet, despite the public nature of many electoral violations, The ECC and PECCs have not demonstrated willingness to sanction candidates for abusing state resources, campaigning in prohibited venues, or illegally involving government officials and members of security forces in their campaigns.

FEFA’s Recommendations

To the Security Forces and Institutions

  1. Direct threats and violence against individuals involved in the electoral process are multiplying and will likely continue to escalate as Election Day moves closer. FEFA calls on the Afghan National Police and Ministry of Interior to promptly and thoroughly investigate all threats against individuals involved in the electoral process, including threats made by local powerbrokers, and provide security to threatened individuals and institutions throughout the remainder of the electoral process.
  2. Women candidates are particularly at risk in many parts of the country, and are being targeted for gender-based intimidation and violence. FEFA calls on the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police to take additional measures in providing security support to female candidates, including introducing candidates to points of contacts at the provincial level.
  3. Insecurity is worsening countrywide and threatening prospects for clean elections and broad participation. FEFA encourages Afghan and international security forces to increase their efforts to protect civilians and areas where civilians will be taking part in election activities during all phases of the electoral process and in the weeks immediately following its conclusion.

To the Afghan Government

  1. The widespread abuse of state resources by candidates is undermining the integrity of the electoral process. FEFA calls on the electoral institutions to exercise their legal authority to combat abuses of state resources and to promptly sanction candidates found to have abused state resources in their campaigns.
  2. Government employees have been instrumental in allowing candidates to abuse state resources nationwide. FEFA calls on the president and cabinet to issue new instructions to government employees generally, and to provincial governors and heads of ministerial departments specifically, instructing them not to employ government resources in favor of candidates.
  3. Women’s participation and political rights are still under threat nationwide, as the intimidation of female voters and candidates during the campaign period illustrates. FEFA encourages the electoral institutions to increase their efforts to recruit female staff and take all other necessary measures to ensure women’s participation and uphold women’s political rights throughout the electoral process.

[1] Electoral Law of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Article 62 (2).


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