Montag, 14. April 2014

Afghan Elections (3): checks and balances

As the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has released its long-awaited first partial results, it is to say that the release of these results is a step towards transparency, responding to a very active civil society and Afghan media all along the past months trying to pave the ground for a more democratic follow up of the voting process. Numerous were the Afghan media who on election day asked their readers and listeners to report signs of fraud or intimidation. together with its parallel twitter and facebook accounts is so far one in a series of interesting social media forums that has established a regular communication with voters, also through call-ins, sensible videos or audios being posted. The task of the Afghan media to seperate truth from intentions of manipulation in this is of course a complex one. In the best case, the agencies network of correspondents in the provinces, try to quickly go after the true-or-false content of any serious allegation posted. Their presence is an asset and has helped independent observers and most likely also the ICE commission to follow up on what is going on in the country. IEC's release of the partial results was preceeded a week ago by the first selective samples of some of the Afghan news agencies, after they had collected traceabe results from selected polling stations throughout most of the provinces. One of these early sample press releases came from Pajhwok Afghan news, an agency that has established itself in the past years, though still struggeling with independent funding and a business model for the years to come, becoming less dependent of international funding. Pajhwok's news release that would finally be published with first sample results on the night from April 4th - election day - to April 5th - was put into form in an interesting process itself. As a collegue from the foreign media, I had the opportunity to follow the intense discussion within the agency's newsroom (see picture) on that day. Its editor in chief, Danish Karokhel and his reporters were working more than an hour to debate on which final wording the press release should take. On the one hand it had to be accurate and sovereign in itself while on the other side not unresponsably provoke public authorities, candidates and a public opinion that up until today is not so much accustomed to the publishing of such samples. Any premature release of figures might in fact be interpreted as taking favour ethnically for one candiate or another or a favor one part of the electorate over another. It took the team of Pajhwok more than an hour to come to a conclusion for a version approved by all. A example of transparency in itself. Though some organisations contested the news release shortly after April 6th , it also became clear that the procedure and accuracy of the finding harvested less harsh reactions than could be expected. In fact, Pajhwoks with its sample findings comes out very close to what the IEC has published now as the first 10 % of votes officially counted. A sign of hope in a process that might so far have seen some new and slowly emerging signs of checks and balances. If you add to this the surveys and polls (though some of them very biased and lacking transparency) in the pre-campaigning phase and during campaigning, it comes down to a list of examples that may lead to a growing role and of media and of the Afghan civil society in an ever more complex voting process.

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