Afghanistan ‘vote fraud’ videos raise alarm
Issued on: Modified:
Over the past few days, several amateur videos appearing to show election fraud in last Saturday’s election in Afghanistan have circulated on social networks. Some of them show people stamping piles of ballots. While it is not possible to prove the ballots shown in these videos ended up being counted in the election, our Observers in Afghanistan find some of the footage quite convincing.
Screen grab from first video below.
Over the past few days, several amateur videos appearing to show election fraud in last Saturday’s election in Afghanistan have circulated on social networks. Some of them show people stamping piles of ballots. While it is not possible to prove that the ballots shown in these videos ended up being counted in the election, our Afghan Observers find some of the footage quite convincing.
This first video, which was shared widely online, shows several people stamping dozens of ballots in an unidentified location. At least one of the young men appears to be a minor. They are speaking in Pashtun. One man says, “Hurry, hurry and vote a lot for Ashraf Ghani [Ahmadzai]”, who is Afghanistan’s former finance minister and one of the candidates for president. Another says, “There is so much work!” A third says, “Don’t worry, you will be paid in dollars”. The young man says, “Sure, we're not only working for God’s sake!” – implying that they aren't working for free.
Sara (not her real name), who is an independent electoral observer in Afghanistan, says the video looks authentic. She preferred to remain anonymous.
All the materials appear authentic, and the way they are stamping and folding the ballots is correct. The green papers were used in this year’s provincial council election, and the blue ones for the national election. There’s a second step that you don’t see in this video, where they must fill in a voter card list, but maybe that is being done elsewhere. It looks like they are marking the ballots for different candidates, possibly to make things look more authentic. However, if there is an investigation, they might still get caught because they’re making identical tick marks.
There are many ways in which they may have gotten their hands on this material, particularly in insecure areas of Afghanistan where the Independent Electoral Committee [the body ensured with carrying out the election] has great problems with control. The material is sometimes taken by force, or, more often, redirected when unmonitored.
Some online commenters have pointed out that this video could have been filmed to discredit Ahmadzai, and that the ballots may not have actually been cast. However, it is impossible from these videos to know either way.
This second video takes place outdoors, in an unidentified location.
This one is interesting, because it is set up like a polling station, at the side of a road. The staff is wearing IEC waistcoasts. There appear to be voters there as well, in the booths. All the materials are original. The men without waistcoasts appear to be filling in multiple ballots.
This next video shows a group of people gathered around a pile of ballots by the side of a road. One of the men explains that they are in Zourabi, in the region of Kiligai (Baghlan Province), and that this is the day after the election. He says they found a guy carrying hundreds of ballots, stopped him and handed him over to the police. The man goes on to explain that all the ballots, both local and national, were checked for a single candidate.
This last video, meanwhile, shows a different form of rule-breaking: a candidate for parliament, Latifeh Saeedi, is confronted by a local journalist. He accuses her of asking people to vote for her party inside the election station in the northern city of Takhar. This is against the law, but she readily admits to it.
Final elections results have not yet been disclosed. The leading candidates have all complained of fraud. Hashmat Karzai, who is the cousin of outgoing president Hamid Karzai, said his electoral observers had collected more than 20 amateur videos showing fraud and given them directly to the complaints committee.
The head of the electoral complaints commission, Abdul Satar Sadaat, has indicated that fraud did take place in this election “and it may not have been a small amount”. He also noted that the majority of the complaints are against election commission workers. They have received more than 3,000 complaints and plan to investigate about half of those.
"The government put out too many ballots, making it easy to commit fraud"
According to our Observer Haseeb Motaref, an Afghan human rights activist who works for the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA), these videos are only the tip of the iceberg.
While we haven’t yet been able to confirm the veracity of any of the videos published on social media, we had about 10,000 electoral observers spread all around the country, and they reported many cases of fraud – though less than in 2009, when there were fewer regulations in place. A big problem is that the government printed out 14 million paper ballots, which is a lot more than the actual number of voters in Afghanistan. [Estimates put turnout at 7 million]. This volume of extra ballots makes it easy to commit fraud.
We expect the complaints commission to investigate all these videos of alleged fraud published on social media. And I think they will take this task seriously, because Aziz Ariafar, a prominent member of this commission, has already published some of these videos on his personal Facebook page and promised to verify them.