Official apologizes for delay but does not clarify when the results will be available
Preliminary results expected on Saturday after last month’s presidential election in Afghanistan have been delayed, the election commission said.
Officials had previously indicated that results would likely be pushed back. But in her announcement, Awa Alam Nuristani, who heads the Independent Election Commission (IEC), did not say how long the vote count would be delayed.
“Unfortunately, because of some technical issues and for transparency, we could not announce the results based on the election timetable,” she said, apologizing at a press conference.
The IEC previously said that less than one-third, or about 2.7 million of Afghanistan’s 9.6 million registered voters, cast ballots in the Sept. 28 first-round poll. With fears of fraud and threats of deadly Taliban violence, it was a record low turnout.
The contest featured 18 candidates but President Ashraf Ghani, seeking a second five-year term, and Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, are the favorites. Just two days after the election and before all votes had even arrived in Kabul for counting, Abdullah claimed victory in a move that international and local observers panned as premature.
On Oct. 12, his running mate Asadullah Saadati complained of “systemic fraud” organized by “circles within the election commission and the palace.” Voting this year was supposed to be more secure than ever, with each voter verified through biometric machines to ensure no one could cast multiple ballots.
Saadati claimed the IEC was counting “fraudulent” and non-biometric votes.
The IEC has repeatedly said it would not count votes unless they had been verified biometrically. But use of biometric readers to prevent repeat voting complicated the process, partly because communication breakdowns prevented data from numerous readers being transmitted to the IEC on voting day. Instead, the machines had to be taken to the commission in Kabul to extract the data.
Highlighting the challenges it faces, the commission has said unidentified hackers unsuccessfully attempted to break into its computer servers.
After a recent visit to the IEC, Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan Dave Metcalfe said he was “impressed” by the commission’s attempts to fight voter fraud.
Election officials have called on candidates to show restraint and wait for the preliminary results in a bid to avoid a repeat of 2014. That year’s election was marred by dueling claims of victory and fraud by Abdullah and Ghani.
The IEC’s initial timetable called for final results on Nov. 7, after which a second electoral round would be held within two weeks if necessary.