Asian Network for Free Elections monitoring Election Results in Afghanistan

This was the Asian Network for Free Elections website for the 2009 elections in Afghanistan. To see what this international monitoring body is presently doing go to their new website at:

I was in Afghanistan during the election as part of a team helping a US company solve some application and security issues that could not be addressed with their current (COTS) commercial off-the-shelf software. My company provides custom web application development services for companies requiring specialized, industry-specific solutions. Often times companies initially purchase commercial off-the-shelf software which may appear to suit their needs. The problem with having an over the counter COTS is that the business is now beholden to the manufacturer that created the software. I always shudder when I see the disruptions that occur when a company's COTS software is discontinued or requires them to purchase an unexpected expensive upgrades. In the worst scenario I have heard of companies going out of business because the down time required to get new programs up and running resulted in too much lost revenue. The custom business and web application development that we do for clients is actually owned by them. They can keep the programs and tools as long as they like. Custom software development alleviates concerns that the everyday programs a company relies on will suddenly not be available anymore. So we were in Afghanistan, under a lot of security because of the volatile nature of the election and the fact that we were Americans. Nevertheless I would never have missed the experience. The work that the Asian Network for Free Elections did on the ground was amazing.

After the 2009 elections were over and the mission of the website accomplished, the site’s domain was allowed to expired. Recently I discovered that the domain was available, so I bought it with the goal of recreating as much of its original content as possible from archived pages. I did not want someone else to purchase the domain and re-purpose the site for something that had nothing in common with the original website.

I believe that the information on‘s archived pages is still important and should be available for online viewing if for no other reason than for historical purposes.

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), is the only regional observation group in Afghanistan which is monitoring the Afghan elections.

What is ELECT?

UNDP/ELECT is the primary vehicle through which the international community supports the Afghan elections. Working closely with United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA), it provides project and program design and management, mobilization of donor funding, activity coordination, the channeling of funds for electoral support, and reporting. A significant part of its work involves providing technical assistance and advice to principal electoral bodies such as Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission.

UNDP/ELECT is guided by UN Security Council Resolution 1806 of February 2008, which calls for the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan to lead international civilian efforts on the Afghan elections.

UN Security Council Resolution 1806 [excerpt]:

  • Support, at the request of the Afghan authorities, the electoral process, in particular through the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission (AIEC), by providing technical assistance, coordinating other international donors, agencies and organizations providing assistance and channeling existing and additional funds earmarked to support the process;
  • Notes the leading role that the Afghan institutions will play in the organization of the next elections, encourages the Afghan Government, with support from the international community, to accelerate the planning and preparation of such elections, stresses the need to establish a permanent Civil Voter Registry (CVR) in accordance with the Afghanistan Compact, and emphasizes the importance of free, fair, inclusive and transparent elections in order to sustain the democratic progress of the country.>


ELECT Structure

>UNDP/ELECT is structured to provide support and advice to the Independent Election Commission, and to administer complimentary programming. It is headed by a Chief Electoral Advisor and includes an operations unit which provides support and advice to the Independent Election Commission, as well as a number of advisors and managers to oversee programming.

Information for Voters

The Independent Election Commission administers programs intended to inform the Afghan electorate about their rights and obligations in elections, including voter registration, what happens on election day, and the announcement of elections. Voters can request information by contacting the Independent Election Commission.

The Electoral Complaints Commission is responsible for adjudicating challenges to candidates and complaints about the electoral process. Challenges or complaints can be submitted at the headquarters in Kabul or any of the provincial offices. Learn more by visiting the ECC website.


Types of Elections Information

Presidential Elections

Afghanistan ascribes to the presidential political system, whereby the head of state is a president directly elected by the people of the state. Under this system, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is mandated to implement the 2004 Constitution and act in the interests of the people.

The President is responsible for, inter alia, acting as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, convening the loya jirga, appointing ministers and other high-level officials in conjunction with the Parliament, endorsing laws and judicial decrees, establishing commissions, proclaiming and terminating states of emergency, and calling referendums.

Two vice presidents, the first and second, succeed the President in the case of absence, resignation, or death.

On 9 October 2004, more than eight million registered voters directly elected Hamid Karzai as the President of Afghanistan by an absolute majority. Approximately 4,900 polling centers with 22,000 polling stations were operational in all districts of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Out-of-country voting took place with 2,800 polling stations in Iran and Pakistan. Counting centers were located in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Kunduz, Bamyan, Herat, and Gardez.


After receiving over 50% of votes in free, general, and secret balloting, the office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is held for five years.  Presidential candidates must meet a number of minimum criteria, including being a citizen of Afghanistan, being over the age of 40 years, and not having been convicted of war crimes, or criminal acts.

>If no candidate receives over 50% of votes after the first round of elections is complete and results announced, a second round of elections must be held within two weeks. Only the two candidates who receive the most votes are allowed to stand in the second round.

According to the 2004 Constitution, the Presidential term expires on the 22 May of the fifth year after elections, with new elections being held between thirty and sixty days prior to the end of term.

Should the President resign or be deemed unfit to carry out the duties of the office, the First Vice President acts as Interim President until an election can be held. According to the Constitution, an election must be held within three months.

During that time, the First Vice President cannot amend the Constitution, dismiss ministers, or call a referendum. Additionally, Vice Presidents are required to nominate themselves as presidential candidates in the election.

Parliamentary Elections

The National Assembly, also known as Parliament, consists of two houses: the Lower House, known as the House of People or Wolesi Jirga; and the Upper House, known as the House of Elders or Meshrano Jirga.

>The Wolesi> Jirga> consists of 249 seats distributed according to provincial population estimates, with at least two seats per province.

The National Assembly can, inter alia, ratify, modify, or abrogate laws, approve programs, approve the government’s budget, change ministries, or ratify treaties. The Wolesi Jirga can further move for a vote of no confidence against a minister, approve or reject appointments made by the President, appoint commissions to investigate the actions of the government.

>The first National Assembly elections were held simultaneously with Provincial Council elections in September 2005. Because District Council elections were postponed, two representatives from each Provincial Council were elected to the Meshrano> Jirga> in order to maintain the balance between indirectly elected members and presidential appointees.


Citizens of Afghanistan who have been citizens for at least ten years may nominate themselves as candidates, provided they have not been convicted of crimes against humanity, a crime, or have been deprived of their civil liberties by a court. All candidates must be over 25 years of age in the case of the Wolesi Jirga and 35 in the case of the Meshrano Jirga.

The 2004 Constitution and the 2005 Electoral Law include provisions which guarantee the representation of women in the Wolesi Jirga and in Provincial Councils. At least 68 women will be elected to the Wolesi Jirga. However, if female candidates are well supported in their constituency, more women could be elected to these institutions.

>The term of the Wolesi> Jirga> concludes on June 22 on the fifth year after elected. Elections must be held between thirty and sixty days prior to the expiration of the term.

The terms of the Meshrano Jirga does not have an end date. Rather, the term of its members depend on whether they are elected by provincial or district councils, or are appointed by the President.

Provincial Council Elections

Each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces hosts a Provincial Council, which is directly elected by the voters of that province. According to the 2004 Constitution, the Provincial Council is mandated to “participate in attainment of the development objectives of the state and improvement of the affairs of the province.

Provincial Councils advise and work closely with the provincial administration, the head of which, the Governor, is appointed by the President. They are obliged to elect by majority, from amongst their own elected members, one person to represent the province in theMeshrano Jirga for a term of four years.

In 2005, 3,025 candidates, including 247 women, contested the elections for 420 Provincial Council seats.


The first Provincial Council elections were held simultaneously with National Assembly elections in September 2005. Provincial Council elections are held every four years by residents of the province. Like the Presidential and Wolesi Jirga elections, Provincial Councils are elected by fair, general, secret, direct elections.

The number of seats in a Provincial Council is determined by the province’s population. Each Provincial Council is composed of between 9 and 29 seats.

Fewer than 500,000 inhabitants

9 members

500,000 – 1,000,000 inhabitants

15 members

1,000,000 – 2,000,000 inhabitants

19 members

2,000,000 – 3,000,000 inhabitants

23 members

More than 3,000,000 inhabitants

29 members

At least one quarter of seats in each Provincial Council are reserved for female candidates. Women compete equally with men, but if not enough women win the top seats, the last seats in each Provincial Council will be allocated to female candidates to ensure that women hold the number of seats reserved for them by law.



Following the Bonn process, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was given a pivotal role in helping to establish viable governance structures. Among these efforts was support to the 2004 presidential and 2005 parliamentary and provincial council elections. Both of these elections were a success with large voter turnout and nationally accepted results.

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) was tasked with the political oversight of the elections process, with UNDP holding responsibility for the execution of the 2004 presidential elections and managing all resource mobilization and donor relations for the 2005 parliamentary and provincial council elections. The UN Office for Project Services was the implementing agent for all electoral activities in 2005.

Presidential elections were successfully held on 9 October 2004 with over eight million voters (42% of whom were women), out of the 10.5 million successfully registered through the Voter Registration Programme, casting their ballots, resulting in the election of President Hamid Karzai.

An addendum forming an integral part of the 2004 Afghan Elections Project was signed on 28 March 2005 reflecting the activities to be undertaken to facilitate the Wolesi Jirga(House of People) and Provincial Council Elections on 18 September 2005. Over 6.4 million voters turned out for this election, representing over 50% of the registered voters. The proportion of women voters also remained high, at about 41%.

Throughout the duration of the election project, capacity building and technical support was provided to the Joint Electoral Management Body, which was temporarily invested with electoral management and administration powers of the Independent Election Commission as contemplated under the constitution, up until the inauguration of the National Assembly on 18 December (per Article 57 of the Electoral Law).

2005-2006: The Transitional Phase

Following the successful completion of the Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council Elections, it was envisaged that the Voter Registration and Elections Project (VREP) 2004-2005 would be closed and, following a three month “transitional phase” was planned. This transitional phase was intended to provide support to ensure the continuation of the Independent Election Commission (IEC). The transitional period was extended for an additional six months (until 21 September 2006) to provide critical support to the IEC in order to ensure its sustainability. During this period of time UNDP took over the responsibility to secure the salaries for the staff of the Independent Electoral Commission Secretariat as well as the operational costs to keep the headquarters and the provincial offices functional.


Achievements of the transitional phase (March-September 2006):

  • The functionality of the IEC was secured through financial support as well as through the establishment of a consultation mechanism between IEC , UNDP, UNAMA and other stakeholders - an effective advocacy group put in place to support the IEC in political discussions.
  • An audit was conducted on the Voter Registration and Elections Project (VREP) covering the period of 2004-2005 elections. (The 2003 activities were already audited.)
  • Major challenges the IEC was faced with like the retention of staff and the access to the fiscal budget were solved due to the extensive cooperation of all organisations working in cooperation with the IEC and ongoing support from UNAMA.
  • An evaluation of the 2004-2005 Election project was conducted to capture important recommendations for future elections in Afghanistan, for example a review of the Civil and voter registry, intensive capacity building programmes for the IEC staff, a review of the Electoral law and the legal processes connected to it.

2006-2010: Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT) Project

>On the basis of the recommendations and in close consultation with the IEC> and other stakeholders, a comprehensive project document was developed, “Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow” (ELECT), to support the capacity building process of the newly established Independent Electoral Commission in addressing the needs beyond 21 September 2006. The project document was signed and work began in October 2006. A key part of ELECT is an inter-organisational> agreement to coordinate electoral support activities.

Focusing on capacity building and the need to conduct a new nation-wide voter registration and the hope that this activity could be combined with a national civil registration programme, preparations and fundraising for the Civil and Voter registry pilot project, a sub-activity of ELECT was concluded with the receipt of 336,000 USD from the UN Democracy Fund. Other funds were raised from Canada, Italy, Denmark and UNDP.


Achievements (ELECT) 2007:

  • he Civil and Voter Registration Pilot (CVR) Project was successfully carried out in the Provinces of Kabul, Bamyan and Nangarhar. Approximately 26,000 people were registered using either a computerized or manual registration system.
  • Training of trainers for the CVR Pilot Project took place
  • A successful public outreach campaign on the Civil and Voter Registry was launched.
  • A gender focal point was employed in order to ensure gender mainstreaming within the IEC and the electoral process.
  • A national seminar on Lessons Learned from the 2003-2005 electoral cycle took place in Kabul. Recommendations from this exercise have helped shape future programming.
  • Support to the IEC in establishing basic office infrastructure.
  • The new electoral law was drafted and sent to the Parliament for approval 2009-2010 Elections


The ELECT projects’ main aims in 2007 were the provision of capacity building to the IEC and the conduct a pilot project on CVR. At the conclusion of this process, a comprehensive electoral support programme was determined.

It was announced that a political consensus had been reached to hold Presidential and Provincial Council Elections in the fall of 2009 and the Parliamentary and District Council Elections in the summer of 2010. On 9 July the IEC announced that they would conduct a voter registration exercise beginning on 6th October through to 2 February 2009. Voter registration was planned to be conducted in four phases with the and aim of capturing citizens who will have turned 18 by the 2009 elections; those who have moved province or have returned to Afghanistan; those who have lost their previous card and those who have not registered till now.

With this massive undertaking, the ELECT project expanded its assistance to the IEC with a program of support for the VR exercise. A Project Document revision was agreed by donors in August 2008 with funding of $101m generously provided in a timely way.

The ELECT project capacity was enhanced with the appointment in June 2008 of a new Chief Electoral Adviser, Chief of Operations and other staff, and support to the IEC extended to the provinces and regions.

A further revision of the project document, covering the 2009 and 2010 processes was signed in December 2008. Priorities were defined as:

  • Support for National Voter Registration
  • Enhancing the capacity of the IEC including Commissioners, Secretariat, Departments and provincial and regional offices;
  • Support to the planning for and roll out of the 2009 and 2010 elections, and;
  • Expansion of support to embrace broader electoral stakeholders including media, civil society, police and observers.