reform election law, held parliamentary and district council elections before holding loye Jerga by signing the political agreement. However, any effort toward implementing them failed due to lack of government will and political obstacles during last two years. Government issued two degrees times on Election law and IEC and IECC, but parliament rejected both decrees by majority votes. It is a major cause of failure in electoral reforms efforts.
Selection committee was established based on the second decree of President. It received more than 400 applications for membership to election commissions but when parliament refused to approve the president degree, Selection Committee became un-active. Eventually, during the parliament’s winter vacation, Oversight commission on Afghan constitution based on government permission, announced that due to lack of time, parliament cannot discuss the election law, organization law, duties and authorities of election committee this year, therefore, government issued the third decree which consolidated both laws under a single draft called Election law. Selection Committee was established based on the president decree, which was a major improvement in bringing electoral reform.
TEFA used various tools and methods to observe Selection Committee performances in order to provide a conclusive and valid report to the people of Afghanistan. TEFA gathered the information on this report from direct and indirect sources which included observing from selection committee by through sending professional observers to the committee, observed media coverage on selection committee, conducted interviews with applicants to the commissions, and information sent by people to TEFA.
TEFA observers observe selection committee meetings from the beginning till end of their each meeting in daily basis. They sent their report to TEFA on the checklists, which were prepared to measure the transparency.
Moreover, people shared their information and complaints to TEFA as one of independent organization about the selection Committee performances, candidates, interference of different individuals to influence the work of selection committee. TEFA observers who observed the work of Selection Committee are trained and professional observers. Furthermore, this report prepared by TEFA professional election observation team in close consultation with the TEFA international advisors.
This report reflects all aspects of selection committee works which on the bases of transparency, TEFA feels accountable to expose any positive and negative points of working procedures of Selection Committee to the people of Afghanistan.
Legal bases for Establishment of Selection Committee
Selection Committee commenced officially based on the president decree on Election Law No. 2138 on the 17 of Mizan of the current year. According to the Election Law, Selection committee was established to assess the applications and identify qualified candidates for the membership of Independent Election Commission, and Independent Election Complaint Commission. Selection committee were consisted of five members such as representative from supreme court as head of the committee, Oversight commission on constitution, independent Human Rights’ commission, civil organizations related to election and women Rights organizations. Although nothing is mentioned about the secretariat of the selection committee, government made Administrative affair office in-charge of Secretariat of the Selection Committee. Location of holding the meetings of committee was also selected in administrative affairs office of president. This decision has two major issues. First observers, Medias, and civil organizations had limited access to selection committee. Secondly, handling all the work of selection committee by administrative affairs office of president in a government location increases the concerns over independency of the Selection Committee.
In accordance to the procedures of Selection Committee all applicants were required to submit their document to the administrative affairs office of President, which created lots of difficulties to the applicants, and in some cases applicants’ documents were lost and nobody was interrogated.
Working procedures of Selection Committee
After the establishment, Selection committee prepared the working procedures, and ethics procedures to perform its duties according to them. The established procedures beside their positive points they had some weak points as well from which we can mention the lack of detailed qualifications for election commission candidates in accordance to election law. Moreover, the procedures lacked a mechanism to collect the complaints, which defy the candidates and people from their right to complain.
Selection committee after its first official meeting announced commission vacancies for all interested individuals for the membership of IEC AND Independent Election Complaint commission. They decided to provide opportunity not only to new applicants but for those who already applied in the previous selection committee to compete in the process. Almost 400 applications from previous Selection Committee and 322 new applications from selection committee were received. From 722 applicants 531 applicants (467 male, and 64 female) for IEC and from 191 applications (167 male and 24 female) for ECC. Selection Commission after review of all applications, rejected 119 of them as not having the related education background, 81 of them lacking experience, 18 of them under age and 4 of them lacking complete documents. In total, 222 applications were rejected and 500 were moved to next processes.
Selection Committee completed four phases in selecting 21 candidates to IEC and 15 candidates to IECC. In the first phase all the documents of candidates were reviewed, in the second phase, educational degrees, writings, experience of candidates were scored, which eventually 63 candidates for IEC and 45 candidates for IECC moved to third phase.
In the third phase, Selection Committee conducted face to face interviews with candidates who passed the first two phases. On this phase focus was made on short legal questions and introduction of candidates. At the end 42 candidates to IEC and 30 candidates to IECC moved to forth phase. On the forth phase, after face to face interviews and reviewing plans of the candidates, Selection Commission selected 21 candidates to IEC and 15 candidates to IECC.
Selection Commission violated their established procedures in various occasions on which were highlighted by TEFA Observers. In accordance to article 8 of Selection Committee procedures, only 7 days are permitted to interested applicants to complete their documents, however the selection committee secretariat by violating article 8 of working procedures not only give more time to female applicants to complete their documents but also they received documents of some of the new candidates after the due date against the procedure and added their name on the list of candidates.
Selection Committee respected all observers and welcomed them to the meetings. Selection Committee would always informed observers about their activities before the meetings. TEFA observers and other observers were interested to participate in scoring of candidates to watch the transparency of selecting candidates to shortlists, however, none were permitted in the process.
Interview questions were prepared without presence of observers. The questions on the third and forth phase were simple and not conclusive. TEFA believes that asking those questions would not evaluate the professional qualifications of candidates. Moreover, there were more legal questions rather than professional questions. Repeating the same questions for all the interviewers were another issues as well. According to the TEFA observation, there were no justice and fairness in the interviews as for some candidates all member of Selection committee were asking questions and even discuss the question with some of them while one or two members of the Selection committee only asked some candidates and the interview was done in 5 minutes.
Member of selection committee preferred the general experience of the candidate to his/her related professional experience on election. Even the Selection committee would decide on the candidate whether to keep him in election commission or IECC. Most of the times final decisions were made behind close doors without presence of observers. The Secretariat of selection committee that was responsible to provide facilities to the committee promised to observers several times to share information on the second phase of procedures but they did not do that. They said that they cannot provide information on candidates and short listed candidates to the election observers. The secretariat of selection committee not only participated in all the meetings of the committee but also take part in decision making as well.
Some of the candidates who moved to fourth phase were not qualified candidates as the plans they presented during their interviews were speculative and far away from reality of Afghanistan. It shows that members of the Selection Committee did not play enough attention in shortlisting the candidates on merit base. On the fourth phase, there were no clear measurements in scoring the candidates and only members of the selection committee by swinging the documents back and forth and eye gestures to each other decided to keep or reject the candidate.
Representative of Civil Society
Based on the past decrees of government the Selection Committee was established. Since government did not like the representatives from Civil organizations in the membership of Selection Committee, the third decree of the government was issued which decided to reselect the members for Selection Committee at a time when some of distinguished members of Civil organizations were busy in side events of Brussels Conference out of the country.
According to TEFA assessment, representatives of civil society in Selection Committee could not represent an acceptable representation from civil society because they have not held any meeting with civil organization in particular with those civil organizations who selected them to this national responsibility. They even did not ask any advice from these civil organizations. They continued their job irresponsibly. Moreover, in many cases they acted on behalf of the government and did not share any information with Election observer’s organization. Therefore, TEFA believes that current civil organization‘s representatives in Selection Committee are neither efficient nor effective. As these Representatives are not coordinating with civil organizations and they even not rising their voice against government interference, TEFA is concerned over the future of civil society in the country.
TEFA believes that Transparency is a process by which every step is open to the observation of civil organizations, political factions and medias. The process based on the internal procedures without any irregularities, interference and reluctance should be performed.
Members of the Selection Committee are not impartial and independent. Besides, the secretariat of Selection Committee is run by President administrative affair office, which is a major concern over the independency of the committee to the Election observing organizations and the people.
According to TEFA observation, Selection Committee could not perform its duties on the principle of transparency and it could not ensure justice. One of the principle of transparency is to share information, which Selection Committee violated this principle. In spite of several request by TEFA, Selection Committee has not shared any information yet.
Although Selection Committee provided the observation opportunity to some extent to national and international observers, but in accordance to TEFA observation, the opportunity for observation was poor and it take away the opportunity from observers to observe the scoring process of candidates and the reason of selecting of the candidates.
Complaint process is part of ensuring the transparency, which does not exist in Selection Committee. It not only undermine the transparency but it takes away the right from people in particular candidates to register their complaints and to get them investigated
TEFA Observation Findings:
TEFA believes that the article of the decree of president about Selection Committee, which is the base for establishment of the selection committee, has shortfalls as it questions the transparency and impartiality of the committee. Article 13 of this decree about the members of the committee says that representatives of Supreme Court is the head of the committee which questions the equality of member of committee and appointing of head of the committee by the president without agreement of members of the selection committee is imposing the will of president on an independent committee.
On election law, minor subjects like introducing representatives of civil society organizations within 7 days are addressed but the law has not mentioned anything on more important subjects like establishment and members of Secretariat of Selection Committee. Generally, TEFA findings on Selection Committee are as follows:
TEFA understand the selection committee composition as inappropriate composition in keeping the independency of the Committee and TEFA also recognized the leadership of the selection committee by Administrative affairs office of president of as incorrect. The s location for the selection Committee is in governmental area under president and his supporter’s influence. TEFA believes that the secretariat of selection committee and location of meetings of the committee should have selected more carefully because in current situation, people trust on election processes has decreased. We need to take transparency in to consideration in reforming the election processes. It helps the people to trust election process.Legal documents like procedures of the committee are incomplete and they have clear shortfalls like lack of enough criteria for candidacy and lack complaint mechanism.
Members of Selection Committee behavior toward observers were appropriate, but more cooperation is needed to conduct conclusive observation on all areas such as sharing information about candidates list, shortlisted candidates. Procedures of second phase and providing opportunity to observers to observe scoring of the candidates which none of them have been shared yet.
Complaint process could help to increase the transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, Selection Committee completed their work without it. They did not give the opportunity to candidates to present their complaints
Majority of the members of Selection Committee were not professional in election process, so they asked non-technical questions and more questions were from Constitution. Some of the candidates who reached to the final phase were not qualified. Their plans were speculative and far away from reality.
Sometimes the figures and numbers announced by the committee were not consistent like the number of applicants.
Selection committee and its secretariat violated their internal procedures by accepting new applications after due date.
In most cases final decision on candidates were made behind closed doors by dismissing observers and by swinging papers back and forth and communicating by eye gestures. The reason for shortlisting the candidates are unknown to the observers.
Lack of the same treatment of candidates by members of the Committee was a major issue as well.