International Standards to Help Guide Vote Audit
 
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News - Election 2014

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With the agreement between presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai now made, the criteria to be used for the comprehensive vote audit they approved has come into focus. The United Nations (UN) and others close to the matter have indicated both Afghan and international standards will be applied to the inspections.

Former Chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), Fazl Ahmad Manawi, said on Sunday that the auditing process will be conducted in the presence of the UN, European Union (EU), other international observers and representatives of the candidates.

However, Manawi said it remains unclear whether or not the same 17 methods used in 2009 will be used in this year's auditing.

"International standards of auditing are clear because we've used the procedure in 2009," Manawi said. "The views of the international community, particularly UNAMA and EU's technical teams, will be involved in the audit process."

Ghani-Ahmadzai team emphasized that most of the criteria being used in the audit would be coming from the Afghan law. "Most of the criteria for auditing written in the election law will be used," Ghani team member Abass Noyan said.

However, based on a statement released by UNAMA on Sunday, the framework for the audit that the candidates agreed on and the UN's recommendations for the process indicate international standards and technical assistance will play a major role.

According to UNAMA, the candidates agreed to abide by the results of an audit that reviews 100 percent of ballots, totaling about 8.1 million votes.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will be involved in transporting ballot boxes from the provinces to Kabul, and will secure them in the capital with the help of the Afghan security forces. The auditing of ballot boxes already in Kabul will begin within 24 hours of the agreement between the candidates, and the contenders will be allowed access to the boxes under supervision by ISAF and the Afghan security forces.

Then, the review process itself, will be "conducted in accordance with best international standards, utilizing an IEC checklist supplemented by UN recommendations," the statement says. And before the audit is over, the IEC is expected to provide an explanation regarding the "discrepancy between turn-out numbers announced on election day (and subsequently), and those announced as part of the preliminary results on 7 July."

According to the statement, a new Chief Executive Officer for the IEC will also be appointed with approval of both candidates. The CEO position was left vacant after the resignation of Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail amidst allegations of fraud over three weeks ago.

Based on the statement, it is clear the IEC will be under heavy scrutiny during the audit, with international and domestic observers, candidate agents, the media and UN all present for the full duration of the process. Observers and the candidates will have the right to sign-off on the auditing or dispute it.

The UN's recommendations for the audit will "enhance" the IEC's checklist, according to UNAMA, suggesting their inclusion is not up for debate.

The statement says those audit-specific recommendations based on international practices include the following: ballots which are obviously similarly marked; evidence of tampering with the results sheet and coherence with the number ballots in the box; comparison of the results sheet copy with that processed in the national tally centre; review of information on the polling station journal and list of voters; and ballot boxes will receive particular attention from international and domestic observers and agents when they register results that, according to best international practices, require special scrutiny (e.g. when there are significant differences between first and second round tallies).

Since the announcement of the agreement between the candidates, which was praised by the public for bringing the election crisis to an ostensible end, the election commissions have welcomed plans for the audit.

"We are full ready to cooperate with the UN in the process and will provide a place for auditing as well," IEC member Mohammad Aziz Bakhtiari said on Sunday. "The IEC's central office has big storage space that is ready as well."

"We welcome any decision that will make the process more credible and transparent and we are ready to oblige," said Nader Mohseni, the Electoral Complaints Commission Secretariat Chief.

According to officials, the duration of the auditing process will be clarified once the exact methodology for it is finalized.

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