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September 2010 - Wolesi Jirga National Assembly Elections

Approximately 4.3 million citizens voted in the 18 September 2010 parliamentary elections. Elections were held amid significant security and logistical challenges, including a prolonged intimidation campaign waged by insurgents, which led to fewer polling stations being opened than in previous elections. The electoral institutions and security forces greatly improved the preparations for, and holding of, the elections as compared with 2009. Although the elections generally followed the constitutional process, they were marred by widespread fraud and corruption.

On November 25, Akhtar Mohammad, the former independent elections commission provincial elections officer for Nangarhar, was found guilty on charges of embezzlement and corruption and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.

Citizens elected 249 members of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the national assembly; 396 of the 2,510 candidates for the election were women, representing a significant increase in female candidate participation compared with the 2005 parliamentary elections.

International observers and civil society groups documented instances of fraud, including ballot stuffing, ghost polling stations, and some interference by staff of electoral bodies; fraud was especially notable in areas with high levels of insecurity and insufficient female electoral staff. While security arrangements were improved as compared to the 2009 election, it was still inadequate in many locations, and numerous irregularities occurred, including pervasive intimidation of voters, polling staff, and candidates, especially women. The IEC invalidated approximately 1.3 million votes during the tally process due to evidence of fraud at 2,543 polling stations identified through predetermined IEC triggers (for example, more than 600 votes at a polling station where only 600 ballots were allocated). According to the IEC, the final numbers for voter turnout could only be estimated as 4.27 million; approximately 23 percent of 5.6 million ballots cast were invalidated.

The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) received 4,557 complaints of electoral irregularities, leading to the disqualification of an additional 334 polling stations. In addition the ECC disqualified the votes for 24 candidates due to allegations of fraud. These disqualifications brought the total number of candidates excluded by the IEC and ECC, both pre and postelection, to 142. No comprehensive list of the 334 polling stations was made public, making it difficult to track the reason for ECC decisions and whether these decisions were implemented by the IEC. Limited transparency on the part of the IEC and ECC during the tally and adjudication process fueled the perception that political interference may have affected the invalidation process. In December President Karzai appointed, per the Supreme Court's recommendation, a special tribunal to investigate the election results and resolve complaints. The IEC expressed concern regarding the special tribunal's legitimacy under the law and stated that the tribunal's intervention in electoral affairs was in violation of the law. The special tribunal remained in place through year's end.

A total of 396 women ran for the 68 seats reserved for women. There were sufficient members to fill the seats reserved for women in each province.

Both under- and over-registration of women were reported. Women voted in separate polling stations from men, yet the lack of sufficient numbers of female election workers, including female searchers, hindered women's participation. There was a lack of provision of security by the government for female candidates. At some voting sites, women were turned away due to lack of available female workers. There was evidence that men also voted by proxy on behalf of women in many cases, as occurred in 2009.

Insurgents targeted civilians and election officials in a campaign to disrupt the national elections. Insurgents killed 31 civilians, including 11 IEC officials, and injured 50 in attacks on election day. Night letters and direct threats were reported countrywide, including the threat to cut off fingers marked with voting ink. Some schools identified as polling places received threatening letters.

As of November 21, the MOJ had accredited 33 political parties under a 2009 political parties law. However, very few parties were accredited in time for the September 18 elections, and very few of the candidates were shown to be affiliated with a party during the campaign. Political parties were not always able to conduct activities throughout the country, particularly in regions where antigovernment violence affected overall security.

The Pashtun ethnic group had more seats than any other ethnic group in both houses but did not have more than 50 percent of the seats. It lost seats in the September 18 lower house elections. There was no evidence that there were societal groups that were specifically excluded. Traditional society practices that limit women's participation in politics and activities outside the home community likely influenced the central government's composition.

Women active in public life faced disproportionate levels of threats and violence. Media sources reported that female parliamentary candidates were inundated with late-night threatening calls. Women were also the targets of attacks by the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Women who received threats often moved throughout the country to evade harassment. Most female members of parliament reportedly experienced some kind of threat or intimidation; many believed that the state could not or would not protect them.

Various antigovernment forces attacked female candidates. One provincial council member was seriously injured and her bodyguard killed in Baghlan Province in a drive-by shooting by unknown assailants. Other unknown individuals attacked a Gereshk District, Helmand Province community council member, who was also a provincial council candidate. The assailants killed her husband and abducted her. She was later released. In August campaign workers supporting a female candidate were killed.

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