The fate of the Parliamentary elections conducted close to two months ago still hangs in balance. The highly anticipated final results of the elections have repeatedly been postponed. New twists and turns have sprung up that have further complicated the matters and made the resolution of already large obstacles even more difficult. New revelations regarding interference in the workings of the Independent Election Commission by certain high-ranking individuals within the government has been the latest in a series of events that have faced the fate of elections with a crisis. An audio tape of around 20 minutes in length in which 2 persons have a conversation has been leaked to the media.One voice belongs to a high-ranking government official and the other belongs to an employee of the Independent Election Commission.
The government official explicitly asks the election commission employee to ensure that the names of certain candidates will be in the final list as the winners and certain other candidates who have been announced as winners will be declared as having lost the elections. The names of a number of candidates are clearly audible in the tape. The Independent Election Commission has conceded that the voice of one of the two persons audible in the tape does belong to one of its employees. The Back to Top 3 Commission says the name of the employee will be sent to the Electoral Complaints Commission along with the audio tape for further investigation and possible disciplinary action.
The fact is that the extent of these “certain circles” within the government peddling their influence and power inside both of the election commissions is more widespread and worrisome than thought. Ahmad Zia Rafat, spokesperson and member of the Electoral Complaints Commission revealed last week in a press conference that his commission has long been under pressure from “certain circles within the government” to alter the elections results. He once again reiterated the commitment of the Commission to not allowing these circles to succeed in derailing the elections from a path of fairness and transparency.
These fissures point to deeper problems that our political culture still faces. They talk of the kind of maturity that is yet non-existent in our political experience and political culture. The interference into the internal workings of the otherwise “Independent” Election Commission by certain high-ranking officials in the government is not warranted and on the other hand is quite worrisome. The functioning of a workable political system would require that various political entities stick to their defined roles and responsibilities.
Such interference gravely threatens the integrity of the elections and further alienates the public at large from the political process in the country. In a democratic system such as ours, although being haphazard and with all the known and unknown shortcomings, there is a system of checks and balances that prevents abuse and misuse of power.
After close to ten years, is this system of checks and balances in our political system mature enough to be able to play that role? The continuing large scale abuses and misuses of power shows the answer is no. When the Office of Prosecutor General, in flagrant violation of law and when its authority and scope of responsibilities do not include this, insists on investigating the invalidated votes, then we should not be surprised to see larger scale violations of law taking place.
Arbitrary interpretation of laws in this issue by the Office of Prosecutor General in disregard of existingrules and regulations does not bode well for the future. It is falls within the ambit of duties of the Judiciary to interpret the laws and determine whether a government agency has the legal authority or jurisdiction over a matter. But on the other hand, the Judiciary too has, to an extent, failed in carrying out its prime duty of judicial review and judicial activism which are the two most important duties of every Judiciary.
It is expected from the Judiciary to take the lead and carry out its constitutional role in resolving such differences that might arise among government agencies and also between the people and government. On the Other hand, the conduct of the shadowy“certain circles”, who are trying to alter the election results to suit their own narrow interests, is totally unacceptable. These “certain circles”, no doubt, consist of high-ranking individuals within the government and the efforts to alter the election results are systematically pursued by some of the highest officials in the government. Their unacceptable demands regarding invalidating certain candidates, in reality, amount to suppressing the democratic voices of hundreds of thousands of people who chose these candidates in their constituencies.
Resorting to intimidation and illegal means should not be the way in which the government deals with its staunch critics who have lawfully qualified to enter the new Parliament. Attempts have Back to Top 4 also been on by these “certain circles within the government” to alter the ethnic composition of the elections results in some of the provinces in the name of “national unity”. Now the question is that can the government claim that it is a pluralistic government that respe cts the right of all ethnic groups to exercise their right to vote and to determine their leaders and representatives? Is it not that the “national unity” that the government claims it is concerned about, should be legally derived from the ballot box and the results coming from the ballot box strengthen the “national unity”? Then the government‟s maneuvering to alter the ethnic composition of results in the name of “national unity” is counter-productive to the same “national unity” that the government claims it is concerned about. There is no doubt that, at present, our country Afghanistan is at a historic crossroads. The only way forward is to consolidate and strengthen the rule of law in the country and promote a democratic culture. And our government has the historic responsibility to be the torch-bearer and lead the masses towards this crucial goal. These unfortunate incidents and the continued infightings take the country away from these important goals.
At a time when the government should be the upholder of the rule of law and be the strength to the democratic system in the country, it is falling short of this historic responsibility. At stake is the future of the country and the people. We hope that the government starts to get serious about being the upholder rather than breaker of the rule of law.
The article was published in Daily Outlook Afghanistan Group of Newspapers.