Election Crimes in Afghanistan: Law and Practice

June 25, 2019 - 10:30am

This research paper was written in the weeks before the October 2018 Wolesi Jirga elections in Afghanistan, but as the authors observe in their introductory materials, the challenges and failures associated with election crime prosecution have broader implications for perceptions of integrity in the upcoming presidential polls (delayed from April to September 2019). Failure to prosecute and enforce punishment for crimes, and even further to publicize any successful examples of criminals being held to account, will mean there is little to deter fraud, bribery, and other crimes in this next election cycle. Set amidst fledgling peace talks, the next elections will bring a new executive to power who will have significant power in shaping negations with the Taliban – so there are high stakes in the outcome of the vote. Allegations of corruption and criminal activity could have a de-stabilizing affect, potentially setting the stage for violent protest. We are releasing this paper at this time given its continued salience for guiding practitioners and policy makers in strengthening of criminal justice processes for election crimes in the upcoming polls.

While some concerns flagged in this document were not as much an obstacle to successful prosecution as anticipated (e.g., thin definitions of election crimes in Articles 422-435 of the Penal Code), and while general practice has clarified that at a provincial level election crimes cases are heard in public security dewans, other points raised by the memo authors have become extremely salient in the past months. In February 2019, the Commissioners for the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission were dismissed by President Ashraf Ghani for corruption related to the 2018 election – and months later, following indictment, the matter of which court holds responsibility for these cases remains unresolved – with the Anti-Corruption Justice Center claiming election crimes (and other crimes defined by Chapter 6 of the Penal Code) fall out of their jurisdiction despite a Supreme Court Decision to the contrary.

We hope this paper will serve as a useful tool for understanding Afghanistan’s relatively new and untested legal framework for handling of election crimes, as well as provide impetus for further discussion about necessary reforms or coordination amongst relevant agencies. -The INPROL Team

To access the paper, click here.

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