On Sunday, former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, who is running for president against ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, accused the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of corruption. Abdullah contends that IEC Secretary Ziaul Haq Amarkhil attempted to rig the Afghanistan presidential run-off elections on June 14th.
Though secretary Amarkhil denied any involvement in the incident, he resigned a day after Abdullah’s party released intercepted phone conversations in which Amarkhil commanded officials to stuff the ballot boxes in favor of Ghani. During the phone call, a voice orders a person on the other end of the phone line to “stuff the sheep properly,” with sheep purportedly being code for “ballot box.”
Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah hold posters of him during an election rally in Parwan Province on March 20. (Photo: Reuters)
In response to the revelations, a thousand Abdullah supporters congregated in Kabul to protest against the IEC’s perceived corruption. The ralliers voiced outrage about the fraud after they risked their lives to vote. “Our vote is our blood and we will stand up for it!” said some. While the protest was peaceful, the Taliban cautioned the protesters not to participate. Several Afghans mentioned that the Taliban had cut off their fingers as a punishment for voting.
Abdullah, who dropped out of the race on June 18th because of the election fraud incident, mentioned that he might return following secretary Amarkhil’s resignation. However, Abdullah wants some conditions to be met before he formally returns to the race, such as repeating the vote in certain areas.
This is not the first incident of voting fraud in Afghanistan. In 2010, election officials were alleged to have conducted widespread voting fraud in the Afghan parliamentary election. An investigation by the Afghan Attorney General invalidated 1.3 million votes citing “voting irregularities.” Similarly, election observers found widespread fraud in the 2009 re-election of Hamid Karzai. Abdullah also ran for the presidency in 2009, but withdrew citing election fraud before a run-off election could be held.