Political Landscape

Elections 2014 (9): Making sense of the first ten per cent of the results


The IEC released its first partial results a week after the election, pointing towards two close frontrunners. AAN looks at the detail. Photo: Martine van Bijlert

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has released its long-awaited first, partial results, having counted a little over half a million votes, representing a 10 per cent result in 26 provinces. The results, announced on 13 April 2014 in a short press conference, showed Dr Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani firmly in the lead – something which matches both the mood and observations of the last week. The release of partial results is meant as a measure of transparency, as a long silence tends to lead to speculations of interference or other malfeasance. But, as AAN’s Martine van Bijlert reports, it has also led to confusion, as discussions on social media illustrated, as well as premature conclusions. 

The results as presented by the IEC

The IEC presented partial results based on a count of 10 per cent of the polling centres in 26 provinces. The details, which can now be found on the IEC results website, are:

  • Abdullah: 212,312 (41.89%)
  • Ghani: 190,561 (37.60%)
  • Rassul: 49,821 (9.83%)
  • Sayyaf: 25,679 (5.07%)
  • Helal: 13,536 (2.67%)
  • Sherzai: 11,132 (2.20%)
  • Sultanzoi; 2,442 (0.48%)
  • Arsala: 1,360 (0.27%)

From the moment the press conference started, Afghanistan’s social media was abuzz with tweets, re-tweets, conclusions, questions and comments. There was some confusion over exactly which provinces had been included and which had not, over the meaning of the 10 per cent (that one seems to have quite a long life), and what the partial results might mean for the final outcome of the election.

The most pressing question at the moment seems to be: how can a 10 per cent partial result be only be around 500,000 votes, if the total turnout was 7 million?

What the IEC says in its statements is that the partial results were taken from 10 per cent of the polling stations (‘mahalat’) in 26 provinces. This is not the same as 10 per cent of the total turnout or even, necessarily, 10 per cent of the vote of any of these 26 provinces, as polling stations can range between containing 600 votes to being (almost) empty.

Some have concluded that the announced results suggest the remaining eight provinces must still contain around two million votes (if 10 per cent is equal 500,000 votes, they argue, then 100 per cent must be five million, leaving two million voted supposedly unaccounted for). This is not necessarily so, as it depends how many votes the polling stations that were counted contained, compared to those that still need to be counted – both within the 26 provinces and compared to the other eight.

What do we know about the partial results that the IEC has now announced?

We know that they contain votes from 26 provinces. The provinces not included are Badakhshan, Baghlan, Daikondi, Ghazni, Ghor, Nuristan, Paktika and Wardak. We can guess the IEC probably started with the ‘easy’ polling stations, those that had no complaints against them and no signs of irregularities when checking all the forms. They may also include empty – or almost empty – polling stations that reported to have opened but did not report any (or many) votes.

What do we know about the eight provinces that were not included in the first partial results?

The eight provinces – Badakhshan, Baghlan, Daikondi, Ghazni, Ghor, Nuristan, Paktika and Wardak – are either remote or potentially problematic (or both, as is the case with, for instance, Nuristan), which may explain why they have not yet been included in the partial count. In 2010, these eight provinces together reported around one million votes – after disqualifications. Nuristan, Paktika, Ghazni, and to a lesser extent Wardak, Baghlan and Ghor saw high levels of disqualification in the past two elections (for details see AAN’s reports here and here).

Daikondi, Badakhshan and possibly Ghor can be expected to return a relatively high vote for Abdullah, while Paktika may largely vote along the lines of Paktia and Khost with a high proportion of votes for Ashraf Ghani.

What does this partial result tell us?

It tells us that, with 506,843 votes counted, Abdullah currently has a lead of 21,751 votes over Ashraf Ghani, as runner up.

Does this mean Abdullah has won?

He might have, but we really cannot tell from these figures. The margin between him and runner-up Ashraf Ghani is fewer than 22,000 votes which is a small margin. With 6.5 million votes still to be counted, the lead may well oscillate between the two for a while. Moreover, the ten per cent of all polling stations that have been counted may not be representative of the rest of their particular province at all. If you want to get a better idea of whether they may be, you would have to look at the stations counted so far – which have not been posted on the website yet, but they will be – to see whether they seem a representative reflection of the various faultlines in the province (ie, looking at the map, is it likely that the various social, factional or ethnic groups have been proportionally represented?) – but even then you would still be guessing.

All we know, at the moment, is that in the currently counted polling stations, Abdullah has slightly more votes than Ashraf Ghani. This outcome does not prove Abdullah has 40 per cent of the total vote. All we can do is wait for the results, as more polling stations are counted, and see how the percentages move back and forth. In the end what counts is the total number of votes.

Will all the votes that were counted today remain counted, or can some of them still be quarantined and disqualified?

Normally the IEC should only include ‘clean’ votes in its preliminary results, ie votes from polling stations against which there were no suspicions or red flags, or from polling stations that have been properly investigated and audited. This means the IEC should normally not change results after having announced them.

The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC), however, can – and will – still investigate and disqualify votes after the announcement of the preliminary results. It will do this based on the large number of complaints and fraud allegations it has received.

The fact that the IEC said at the press conference today that it had not yet quarantined any votes suggests that it has been processing the ‘easy’ polling stations first. These may have less votes than ‘average’, as the blatantly fraudulent polling stations often return very high numbers of votes.

Some people suggest the next two candidates – Rassul and Sayyaf – will now be able to determine which of the two frontrunners will win. Is that right?

There are rumours that the lagging candidates are meeting the two frontrunners to decide whom they want to support or join. Some take this to mean that they can somehow give their votes to either of the frontrunners and, in doing so, help them pass 50 per cent to avoid a second round. That is not right. Nobody can pass on votes that were cast specifically for them. The talks at the moment are mainly revolving around who might support whom in a likely second round.

The next question, then, is whether the other candidates will be able to deliver the votes they received in this round to whomever they choose to support. An early look at the voting patterns, along with anecdotal conversations, however, seems to suggest that many voters made up their own minds as to whom to vote for. If, hypothetically Rassul and Sayyaf kept around 10 per cent and 5 per cent of the vote, they may still not be able to simply transfer those votes to their chosen second round candidate. Moreover, having either of these men join Abdullah or Ghani’s tickets might equally cost votes, as both are controversial figures in different ways.

 

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Thematic Category: Political Landscape