Independent Election Commission (IEC) Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani announced on Saturday that the audit process would be suspended until the fourth day of Eid because an agreement has not been reached between the two candidates regarding the criteria to be used for recounting and invalidating votes.
Nuristani said that the United Nations (UN) is responsible for resolving the candidates’ disputes over the audit criteria proposal and then send it to the IEC. The UN went ahead and submitted its proposal for criteria to be used during the audit earlier this week after the candidates failed to agree on a mutually acceptable version.
The camps of both Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah have talked about submitting their own suggestions for the UN’s proposal separately.
Earlier on Saturday, before the Eid delay was announced, Abdullah’s team ordered a halt to the auditing process over what they claimed was the negligence of the IEC in selecting its audit staff, excluding foreign observers and failing to clarify articles 12 and 16 of the invalidation criteria.
“The 12th article talks about the similar markings, but we don’t know how many similar markings we will find in a bundle of 50, to make us question the ballot box,” explained Aman, a member of Abdullah’s campaign. “The 16th article states that the ballots of each candidate should be compared to the first round of the elections, which means it is the responsibility of the IEC to provide the ballots from the first round of elections,” he added.
For Abdullah, who caused a stir in the election process originally back in June when he accused election officials and President Hamid Karzai of engineering fraud in favor of his opponent, the importance of foreign oversight of the auditing process could not be overstated. However, for Ashraf Ghani’s team, moving the process forward quickly seems to be the top priority.
“Whether foreign observers are there or not, we want the process to continue,” said Said Sadat Naderi, an audit observer representing Ashraf Ghani.
Nuristani appeared in a press conference right afterward to announce the delay in the auditing process in light of the campaigns disagreements. “The IEC Commissioners decided to stop the process until both candidates have reached an agreement,” Nuristani said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) claims that both candidates have agreed to the UN proposal despite their having some concerns. UNAMA submitted the proposal to the IEC and urged the commission to approve it and implement it right away.
“The proposal is acceptable to us, but first both candidates need to accept it, we don’t have any problem,” Nuristani said.
The current runoff process has seen one delay after another, having dragged out for over a month now and still far from over. Yet many experts see the auditing criteria as a tool for future elections as well, so the painstaking process of approving is possibly a longterm investment.