All that hubbub for nothing

So, in the end, the hubbub surrounding UNAMA and Galbraith was all for naught.  Yesterday, after quietly doing its job for monthe before, during, and after the election, the UN-led ECC invalidated 210 polling stations and triggered a run-off, and today Karzai accepted that run-off.  The election was widely labeled as  flawed, votes were thrown out through a careful and legitimate process led by the United Nations, and we start again.  The only other thing we saw in this fracas was quite a bit of Mr. Galbraith in the news and, in my opinion, an unneeded destabilization of the election process. It’s a young country, the democracy is nascent and, at this point, deeply flawed, but, with international help, the just outcome is its way to being reached.

 

Full text of the Ban Ki-moon’s presser below, but I wanted to highlight the following answer. I think he really nails it:

Q: Mr Galbraith had said that polling stations in regions of the countr controlled by the Taliban, where it would be difficult to police them, shouldn’t have been opened in the first round. Do you anticipate, does the United Nations support having these so-called “phantom polling stations” remain open in the second round?

SG: …The idea suggested by Mr. Peter Galbraith was to reduce the number of polling stations just to prevent possible fraud. That was not acceptable, just to deprive the right of the Afghan people for voting was not acceptable in terms of the core values of democracy. Our principle was to open as many polling stations as possible, so that as many people could participate in their vote. That was the main difference. The question did not arise from whether there was fraud or not; we knew that there was fraud, we reported that there was fraud. Therefore, this time again, as much as security allows, as much as all logistical and all the situation on the ground allows, we will try to ensure that all the Afghan people should be able to express their own will freely without any intimidation or threat.

The full press conference:

 

I warmly welcome the statement today by H.E. President Hamid Karzai
concerning the presidential elections in Afghanistan. He has made it clear
that the constitutional process must be fully respected. This process is
about the future of Afghanistan and the participation of the Afghan people
in their future.

I commend President Karzai for the leadership he has displayed and for his
commitment to ensuring full respect for Afghanistan’s Constitution and its
democratic processes.

I also commend Dr. Abdullah Abdullah for his dignified approach to the
campaign as well as to the difficult post-election period.

These elections were held under extremely difficult, even dangerous
circumstances. The courage and patience demonstrated by the Afghan people
and their leaders must be recognized and applauded. They have voted in the
face of intimidation and insecurity.

This is the first time that Afghan institutions have conducted a
Presidential election. These institutions – the Independent Election
Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission – have worked closely
to ensure strict adherence to the Constitution and the Electoral Law of
Afghanistan. The United Nations has supported the work of these
institutions in their efforts to ensure that all valid votes cast in the
elections of 20 August 2009 were taken into account and that the voice of
the Afghan people was clearly heard.

The United Nations will do its utmost for the conduct of the second round
of elections scheduled for 7 November 2009 in a free, fair, transparent
and secure environment.

I wish, finally, to thank my Special Representative, Mr. Kai Eide, and the
staff of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for
their tireless work in support of the legitimate Afghan institutions and
in keeping the electoral process on track.

Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, concerning this upcoming round on 7 November,
will the UN role be the same? Will you adjust it in any way, give the
United Nations a little bit of a different role, a different approach to
this election, to ensure that it might be less fraudulent than the first
round? And what is your degree of confidence that there will be a
difference this time – that this one will be more honest?

SG: You can understand that there will be a huge challenge in conducting a
second [round of] elections on 7 November. We have only 18 days left
before 7 November. The United Nations will ensure to provide all necessary
technical assistance as we have done in the first [round of[ elections,
including working very closely with the Electoral Complaints Commission
and Independent Election Commission, and also in close coordination with
international partners, to make this election a most transparent and
credible and secure manner. We will basically do similar functions there.
But having learned lessons from the first elections [round], that there
was widespread fraud and irregularities, we will try our best, in close
coordination with the Afghan leadership and Afghan institutions, and other
major international partners, to make this election as fair and free of
fraud [as possible].

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, do you think the international forces should
deploy more troops in Afghanistan? And in which time frame?

SG: This is what the countries who have been providing troops should
decide. I understand that the United States Government is seriously
considering the augmentation of forces to Afghanistan. I would respect any
decisions by the United States Government. Military assistance would be
one of the effective means and ways to assist and help the Afghan people
in their very difficult efforts to make their country, first of all,
politically stabilized in their fight against the Taliban and against
terrorism. We should appreciate the noble sacrifices by many troop
contributing countries, including the United States. Now, as some American
Government officials have said, it would be very important for the
Afghanistan Government to show that they are reliable, they are credible
partners and they should have their own stability in a democratic process.
After all, the United Nations has been very closely working together with
all ISAF troop contributing countries, as well as other development
assistance countries. We will continue to do that.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, can you just tell me how you feel the United
Nations has come out of it, after the last two months? Do you think that
its credibility has been damaged, given that the man you dismissed turned
out to be right about the extent of fraud?

SG: The United Nations, since the beginning of this first election
[round], and right after the election, had been taking a leadership role,
in close coordination with major international partners and together with
the leadership of Afghanistan. Over the last few days, I have been
actively discussing with international leaders, as well as with the
Afghanistan leadership, including President Karzai, that all the processes
should be carried out according to the Constitution of Afghanistan and in
accordance with the electoral processes previously agreed on among the
parties concerned. This effort has been much appreciated by the
Afghanistan leadership and others in the international community. I am
very much pleased that the Afghanistan leadership and President Karzai has
agreed to respect the result of the Independent Election Commission as
well as the Electoral Complaints Commission, that has been agreed before,
and in accordance with the Constitutional process. The United Nations will
continue to play such a role. The credibility of the United Nations has
been there, will continue to be there.

Q: To prevent fraud, what will the United Nations do practically? Could
you give me more explanations?

SG: First of all, there should be security assured, so that the voters
will be able to express their will without any threat or difficulties. And
there should be necessary logistical support provided by the United
Nations and the major international players. This is what we are going to
do. We have learned very valuable but painful lessons from the first
election [round]. First of all, we will advise the Independent Election
Commission not to re-recruit those officials who might have been involved
in fraudulent electoral processes. And we will ensure to make all
administrative and technical [measures] to ensure that this election will
be carried out in a most fair and transparent manner. We must not repeat
what they have done last time.

Q: Two follow-ups from the BBC question. Sir, would you have had an easier
time organizing this had you had the entire United Nations reading
statements about the fraud when [Peter] Galbraith did his? It was so
obvious. And the run-off will probably be won be Karzai. Can you really
make sure that the same fraudulent stuffing of the ballets is not going to
be repeated?

SG: The important thing is that, even though, unfortunately, widespread
fraud has taken place, the measures which we have put in place had worked.
We detected the fraud, and we reported this fraud to the Security Council.
Right after the first election [round], in my latest report to the
Security Council, I reported to the members of the Security Council that
there was fraud and my Special Representative, Kai Eide, also reported to
the Security Council,. Now all these measures will be put in place again,
so that the mechanisms and measures will continue to work and function
properly, so that we will prevent any sort of fraudulent practices and
irregularities.

Q: How much more effective, or how much of a difference would it have
made, if the United Nations had been more effective at policing
Afghanistan and itself for internal fraud and corruption in the years
leading up to this?

SG: After all, this is an Afghan-led process. The United Nations and the
international members have provided technical and logistical support and
also advised them to ensure that these two independent electoral
commissions – one is Afghan-led and the other is United Nations-backed –
they worked closely, in harmony. That has, I think, worked out. We will
try our best, as I said, to make this election as credible and transparent
[as we can]; this is our commitment.

Q: Mr Galbraith had said that polling stations in regions of the country
controlled by the Taliban, where it would be difficult to police them,
shouldn’t have been opened in the first round. Do you anticipate, does the
United Nations support having these so-called “phantom polling stations”
remain open in the second round?

SG: These so-called “phantom polling stations” – I would like to make it
clear that the principles and priorities of the United Nations in
assisting the electoral process last time was to provide and to ensure
that all Afghanistan’s people would be able to express their will by
casting their votes. The idea suggested by Mr. Peter Galbraith was to
reduce the number of polling stations just to prevent possible fraud. That
was not acceptable, just to deprive the right of the Afghan people for
voting was not acceptable in terms of the core values of democracy. Our
principle was to open as many polling stations as possible, so that as
many people could participate in their vote. That was the main difference.
The question did not arise from whether there was fraud or not; we knew
that there was fraud, we reported that there was fraud. Therefore, this
time again, as much as security allows, as much as all logistical and all
the situation on the ground allows, we will try to ensure that all the
Afghan people should be able to express their own will freely without any
intimidation or threat. Thank you very much.

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