KABUL (Pajhwok): Election observers and legal experts say the three-month delay in holding the presidential election and starting the candidate registration earlier is against the law and it would bring under question the government’s legitimacy.
They say delaying or suspending elections is the authority of a special committee mentioned in the Election Law and the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has to share its plan with the mentioned committee, so the committee could decide according to the law and prevent high spending on security of candidates.
The article 104 of the electoral law says the elections could be delayed from the specific date for a period of up to four months in case insecurity, natural disasters or other similar conditions make impossible the principle of general and fair representation in elections and or undermine the credibility of the electoral process.
But such a decision should come from upon the proposal of the commission and endorsement of the committee to be comprised of the head and members of the National Security Council, chairmen of the two houses of the Parliament, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Chairman of the Independent Commission of Oversight of Implementation of the Constitution of Afghanistan
Election oversight institutes say early start of the registration process of candidates and the delay in presidential election would prolong the time of campaigning and pave the ground for election tickets currently in power to hire their teams at top government posts in the capital and provinces so they are able to engineer elections in their favor, experts say.
Meanwhile, the Independent Commission of Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution also described the delay in the presidential elections as “a clear violation of the Constitution.”
On January 1, a number of potential presidential elections including Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Ahmad Wali Massoud and Rahmatullah Nabil criticized the IEC for delaying the presidential vote from April 20 to July 20 and accused the government of pre-poll engineering.
They claimed the IEC delayed the election under pressure from the government the mandate of which would end on May 22.
The IEC has recently announced rescheduling the presidential election from April 20 to July 20, but said the candidate registration would continue from Jan 3 to Jan 20.
According to the election law, the date of presidential election should be determined 180 days before the Election Day and the schedule for it be prepared 120 days ahead.
The article 71 of the election law says, “The Commission shall announce the election date at least (180) days before the Election Day. Conducting by elections shall be an exception to this provision. (2) The Commission shall publish the Electoral Calendar at least (120) days before the Election Day.”
Shahla Farid, a political science lecturer in Kabul University, called the IEC decision to delay to the presidential ballot as ‘a clear violation of the election law’ and said the move needed to be reconsidered and the cost on the three-month delay should be measured.
She said the government was responsible to provide resources and protection to candidates. “The government must provide security for candidates after their registration but their security needs guards and vehicles which cost a lot of money.”
Article 61 of the Constitution says: “The President shall be elected by receiving more than 50 percent of the votes cast by voters through free, general, secret and direct voting.”
The presidential term shall expire on 1st of Jawza of the fifth year after elections. Elections for the new President shall be held within thirty to sixty days prior to the end of the presidential term.
Farid said the delay in elections would not only pave the ground for selling and buying votes but also for the misuse of political power and an opportunity for a pre scheduled election campaign.
She further said in a country where the law was violated, everything was disturbed such as economy, the people and democracy and such steps in the long term would bring the legitimacy of the system under question.
Yousuf Rashid, Executive Head of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), said the delay in the presidential election was the authority of a specific committee mentioned in the election law.
The plan for the election delay should have been shared with the committee which could have decided in this regard, he said.
He said the commission was bound to announce an election schedule 120 days before the conduct of presidential voting. Early registration of candidates would give birth to some issues including early campaigning, attracting public votes, illegal expenditures and more chances for rigging.
Rashid said the early candidate registration had disturbed the overall political environment of the country.
He criticised the IEC for taking no measures so far for the safety and security of candidate.
Ministry of Interior (MoI)
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has said discussion on security of election candidates has been kicked off with authorities concerned.
Nasrat Rahimi, MoI deputy spokesman, said: “Initial discussion regarding the security and safety of election candidates has been started and would be shared with the people when finalized.”
The Independent Election Commission (IEC)
The IEC maintains it needs more time to make preparations for the presidential poll, keeping in mind past experiences. The decision to delay the presidential polls was made in consultation with the institutions and donor countries concerned, the commission says.
IEC deputy spokesman Zabihullah Sadaat said security of candidates was discussed at a recent meeting with security officials and the commission demanded the security strategy to be shared with the presidential palace.
He did not provide more information in this regard, but added: “We will let the media know when the strategy of candidates’ security is shared with us,” he said.
Referring to the creation of more problems as a result of early candidate registration, the IEC spokesman said everything had been clearly stated in the election schedule of presidential poll and no one was allowed to violate the schedule.
He said every candidate would be dealt with in accordance with the law in case of any violation of the IEC rules.