A Right Measure Taken by the ECC
In a rightly punitive action against candidates violating electoral rules, the Electoral Complaints Commission referred presidential candidate Daud Sultanzoi to the General Attorney Office and issued a 50,000 AFs fine against Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, another presidential candidate. The ECC officials said Mr. Sultanzoy has threatened a private TV channel’s reporter, and thus, has been referred to the judicial authorities. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai’s campaigning team is also accused of using government-owned vehicles which had been put under his disposal when serving as the head of the security transition from NATO to Afghan forces. According to the ECC officials, Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, another candidate in the upcoming election, also has been warned over use of police vehicle in election campaigns.
The punitive actions against the candidates come at a time when the election campaigns are heating up and the election candidates attempt to use every possible means to promote their campaigns. This is while there are reports of irregularities and wrongdoings by the candidates’ campaigning teams, government officials, governors and military personnel across the country. Most notably in provinces, there are reports that governors and local strongmen are involved in electoral campaigns in favor of specific candidates through influencing people and local elders. These instances of irregularities suggest that such wrongdoings would go uncontrolled if the electoral bodies do not take serious actions against its perpetrators. The consequence of a fraudulent election with widespread frauds and irregularities could end into a potential political crisis and even more serious scenarios.
As expected, the measure taken by the ECC against the candidates is a right move at a right time which would significantly strengthen the electoral bodies and other election-involved law enforcement agencies. The decisive actions taken against candidates who have violated electoral laws and regulations is sending a robust message not only to the candidates but also to other stakeholders such as government officials and local power brokers. The move is going to significantly help the election process and convince the candidates as well as other stakeholders to go to the race according to the predefined rules and avoid violation of the established regulations by the election bodies. The election bodies must realize that there is widespread support and expectations among the public to it to play robust role in preventing irregularities.
It is indicating that there is a political will in the government to back the decisions of the electoral bodies regarding electoral irregularities and frauds. Recently, the Council of Ministers banned government officials’ involvement in electoral campaigns and asked the election bodies to seriously deal with the electoral irregularities. This was a promising step taken by the government to ensure that the election bodies would be fully backed in doing their duties. However, the real test for the IEC and ECC is to prevent irregularities on the day of election and during the counting of the ballots. The electoral bodies must assert their role as the sole authority in dealing with electoral issues independently and take robust measures to prevent irregularities. The government, in its part, should fully back the electoral bodies and avoid directionless when it comes to backing the rightful authority of the electoral bodies.