Oct 11, 2004
Afghanistan's presidential election took place Saturday under a cloud of widespread fraud.
The problem stemmed from bad ink. The system put in place to prevent multiple voting involved placing "indelible" ink on the thumbs of everyone who came through to vote. When it was discovered Saturday morning that the ink could easily be washed off, fifteen of the sixteen candidates effectively withdrew, accusing interim president Hamid Karzai of rigging the election.
The easily washable ink was only one problem of many. The ink was supposed to be a way to correct another problem: many voters had been issued more than one voter registration ID card, and would be able to vote several times, once for each card. In some areas of the country, over 140% of the adult population was registered to vote!
On top of that, there is not yet any lasting peace over many parts of the country. Many regions are controlled by local warlords, and so was the balloting in those regions. Before the elections, there was widespread reporting of intimidation by the warlords to vote one way or another. Once the balloting was finished, the ballot boxes needed to be collected together and transported from the villages to the city of Kabul, where they would be counted. The collection and counting could take several weeks, and there's no way to tell just how many ballot boxes will reach Kabul without being tampered with.
That may not matter anyway, since the JEMC (Joint Election Management Body), which ran the election and will count the ballots, is stacked with people appointed by Karzai. Even before the problem with the ink was made known Saturday, many had concluded that Karzai's election was a foregone conclusion, and that the voting was a sham.
There were also many technical problems created by lack of supplies like pens to mark the ballots, and a lack of training for the members of the JEMC in the short time they had. The rushed timetable of the Afghan election made no sense in terms of the situation in Afghanistan; but it made a lot of sense for George W. Bush, who wanted to be able to point to "free and fair elections" in Afghanistan to help HIS election chances in November.
Free and fair? No way – it's a sham, meant to be a show, without giving the people a real voice in the outcome.
Sound familiar? It should. It's a perfect example of this systems's idea of democracy in action!