Run Off Voting 4: Initial Issues?

So, with voting wrapped up, the talking begins.  While initial results aren’t slated to be released until July 2 (with final results July 22, though keep in mind that the schedule dates were not met in the last round of voting), there is still plenty of time for both sides to posture and lob accusations at each other.  We’ll write up some more formal analysis in the coming days, but here are a few potential issues that seem likely to gain some traction based on observations from polling stations today, as well as some more random thoughts:

  • One of the key discussion points among voters at a couple of the polling stations was the test done by the IEC before the election using workers to see how long it took for 600 people to vote at the fastest.  The idea here was that if polling stations ran out of ballots in less time than that it would be likely that some type of stuffing or fraud had taken place.  Aware of this voters were discussing how long stations had been open and speculating on whether stations that had run out of ballots had done so for legitimate reason or not.
  • While we’re on the timing issue, the fact that there were only two candidates on the ballot made the voting process much, much faster.  This has made me a little nervous about comparing the length of lines between this round and last round, since the lines this round moved so much faster.  I don’t want to go in the other direction and overestimate, but my guess is that the turnout will be higher than the line size suggests in the final tally.
  • Security was good in Kabul despite some small explosions early in the morning that apparently did not kill anyone, but did make some noise.  One of our researchers spoke to some women who were not going to vote because of security concerns, but this did not seem too wide spread (though, of course it’s hard to interview people who were not voting when you go to a polling station…).  Initial reports from around the country suggest a lot of smaller attacks in many provinces, particularly Wardak, Ghazni, Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman and a couple of others.  None of these, however, seem to have been particularly large which suggests, to me at least, that the Taliban strategy today was not significantly changed from their strategy in the last round.
  • The Abdullah campaign has already complained of ballot stuffing in the southeast.  While both are likely to trade accusations, one of the key questions is whether Pashtun leaders in the south and east (where much of the fraud was in 2009) held back on the fraud in the first round because they were not sure who they wanted to support.  Then, in the second round, with only one Pashtun candidate left, they kicked the fraud machine into higher gear.  There’s no evidence of this yet, but it would not be absolutely surprising.
  • An interesting side note on security is that while the city seemed to me to be locked up even tighter than it was in the first round of voting, officials did not turn off text messaging during the day (something that they did do in April).
  • While only slightly security related, can you imagine the mess there would have been if this mornings earthquake was bigger?  Luckily it was little more than a tremor.  What with the general ambiguities in the Afghan Constitution already, I’m sure there is no provision for what to do in the case of an earthquake shutting down polling stations.
  • Also, lots more people out and about on the streets right now.  With lots of people talking World Cup, it’s likely some will be taking advantage of fewer checkpoints and staying up to watch tonight’s games.
  • While at most polling stations, procedures seemed to be followed closely, one of our researchers still had trouble gaining access to two stations despite the fact that he had a valid IEC monitoring badge.  This was a smaller issue in the last round of voting, but it will be interesting to see if others at the polling stations end up reporting similar experiences.

Especially with both candidates likely to make statements this evening, there’s plenty more to come from Kabul, but it certainly seems that this was another successful round of voting.  Plenty more time for their to be disruptions in the counting and handover process of course, so stay tuned….

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