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Rights body warns of warlords’ success in elections

[Afghanistan] Armed men talking tough in Kunduz.
Up to 100,000 members of illegal armed groups in Afghanistan are to be disbanded (IRIN)

More than half the candidates elected last month to Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament and provincial councils are believed to have links to armed groups, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has warned.

“More than 80 percent of winning candidates in provinces and more than 60 percent in the capital Kabul have links to armed groups,” AIHRC deputy chairman Ahmad Fahim Hakim said on Monday, adding some were notorious warlords.

Horia Mosadiq, country director for the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium (HRRAC), said one of the main reasons for the low voter turnout was the presence of candidates linked to illegal armed groups. “Infiltration of candidates being linked to [these] groups to the parliament would hurt the process of democratisation in the war-ravaged country,” she added.

Electoral law barred anyone with links to armed groups seeking election, but activists claim that with nearly 2,800 candidates, many warlords involved in the bloodshed of the past quarter-century slipped through a UN-backed review.

Local analyst Qasim Akhgar said the presence of warlords in the legislature would disappoint many people seeking an arms-free society after more than two decades of war and destruction. “If warlords infiltrate the parliament, the parliament would lose the support of people … and it will decelerate the process of democracy,” he warned.

Grant Kippen, chairman of the Electoral Complaint Commission (ECC), said: “It is the responsibility of any individual organisation to provide us with evidence indicating the links of candidates to illegal arms groups,” noting the ECC could still disqualify candidates. “Disqualification of candidates depends on the quality of the evidence,” he said.

Of the country’s 12.5 million registered voters, about 6.8 million Afghans took part in the 18 September polls to elect a national legislature and 34 provincial councils for a five-year term.

Almost 5,800 candidates contested the elections, including more than 2,700 for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (lower house) and more than 3,000 for 420 seats in the provincial councils.

Results had been finalised for Nimroz and Farah provinces, with others expected to be completed by the end of October, according to electoral officials.

Meanwhile, at least 50 electoral staff have been sacked for alleged fraud offences, following accusations of irregularities that sparked demonstrations in cities across the country. Hundreds rallied on Sunday in several areas, including the southern city of Kandahar.

According to electoral officials, about 680 ballot boxes, containing about three percent of total votes, were taken out of the counting process because of the fraud allegations.

The elections for the Wolesi Jirga and provincial councils were the first in the war-ravaged country in more than three decades and a key step in the transition to democracy mapped out after the hard-line Taliban regime was ousted in late 2001.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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