The process has been going on since April, when none of the multiple presidential candidates won the absolute majority needed to be elected. After some delay, a second round was called for June 14, pitting the two front-runners, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, against one another. Abdullah cried foul when preliminary results showed him losing to Ashraf Ghani. To prevent the process from collapsing, an independent team was invited to oversee a total recount.
The director of Paktia’s provincial chamber of commerce, Dr Nasir, told IWPR (Institute for War and Peace Reporting) that manufacturers, traders and potential investors had suspended operations while the political situation resolved itself, and retail prices had skyrocketed because of the lack of supply.
“If the electoral dispute is resolved, it will have a positive impact on people in Paktia,” he said. “We talked earlier to local investors about bringing [repatriating] their capital from abroad to here in Paktia.”
Provincial councillor Almir Zazai said the lack of clarity was creating unemployment as businesses held off from new spending.
Zazai said electoral disputes were normal even in longstanding democracies, but in Afghanistan it was important that neither candidate engage in activities so inflammatory as to create instability.
“I would like to urge the electoral commission to audit the votes as soon as possible so as to separate the clean votes from the unclean ones. Then it must announce a result,” he said.
Meanwhile, state and private universities in Paktia closed early for the summer. The Afghan higher education ministry said the decision was taken because of unusually hot weather, but Paktia University student Hekmatullah said this was “no more than pretence.”
“The sudden break was to prevent political disputes around the election,” he said.
The head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) office in Paktia, Bashir Bahram, told IWPR that a procedure had been put in place and would be followed.
“The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission [IECC] has the final say, so once the IEC has completed the recount, it will submit the results to the IECC, which will then apply the standards of justice and provide people with what is rightfully due to them.”
Abdul Raqib Nuri is a student at Paktia University and an IWPR trainee.
This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.