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 Political Affairs

The Political Affairs Division at UNAMA supports political outreach, conflict resolution, disarmament and regional cooperation. The political mandate of UNAMA supported the implementation of the institutional and political objectives of the Bonn Agreement, signed in November 2001, as well as a range of peace-building tasks.

Political Affairs also includes an Election Support Unit, a Military Advisory Unit, a Governance Unit, a Police Advisory Unit and a Rule of Law Unit, which are responsible for coordinating international support for institution-building in each of those sectors.

The key aspects of the political mandate include: preventing and resolving conflicts; building confidence and promoting national reconciliation; monitoring and advising on the political and human rights situation; investigating and making recommendations relating to human rights violations; maintaining a dialogue with Afghan leaders, political parties, civil society groups, institutions, and representatives of central, regional and provincial authorities; recommending corrective actions; and undertaking good offices when necessary to further the peace process.

UNAMA plays a key role in promoting a coherent international engagement in Afghanistan, supporting regional cooperation, promoting humanitarian coordination and contributing to human rights protection and promotion, including monitoring the situation of civilians in the armed conflict.


Secretary-General's latest report

The UN Secretary General's report to the Security Council released on 9 September 2014 provides an update of UNAMA political development activities since 18 June 2014, listed below. For a full copy of the latest report, click here

A. Political developments

4. Following the presidential election on 5 April, in which no candidate won more than 50 per cent of the vote, a second-round run-off was held on 14 June between the two leading candidates, Mr. Abdullah (45 per cent of the vote in the first round) and Mr. Ghani (31.6 per cent). In the lead-up to the run-off ballot, both candidates campaigned across the country to mobilize their respective constituencies and reach out to communities that had not participated or supported them in the first round. In parallel, the candidates sought the endorsement of influential political stakeholders, including the six unsuccessful first-round presidential candidates. While the candidates themselves conducted a respectful campaign in the interests of national unity, there was noticeably less restraint from elements within the candidates’ supporters, especially across social media channels.

5. Prior to the ballot, the Independent Election Commission accredited 110,784 observers, including 70,041 candidate agents, in order to promote the transparency of the run-off election. On the basis of lessons learned from the first round and recommendations from the candidates, electoral observers and the international community, the Commission also made a number of amendments to the process, including improved pre-positioning of contingency materials to better respond to ballot shortages. About 2,000 additional polling stations were established within existing polling centres to improve voter accessibility. Despite statements issued by the Taliban, in which it denounced the election and urged a boycott of the process, opposition by the Taliban appeared uneven and gave way to more flexible local interpretations on polling day, which reportedly allowed the population to vote in a number of districts in the south-east of the country. The Commission reported that of the 6,365 polling centres that had been planned to operate on election day, 140 had been closed for security reasons.

6. At the close of polling on 14 June, the Commission reported that over 7 million ballots had been cast (62 per cent in men’s polling stations and 38 per cent in women’s polling stations). The turnout figures were immediately questioned by Mr. Abdullah, whose campaign team estimated a much lower turnout. On 18 June, Mr. Abdullah announced his disengagement from the electoral process, alleging institutional bias and claiming that the reported high turnout was based on massive fraud. He then demanded a halt to the tallying process and the resignation of the Commission’s chief electoral officer, Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhel, who he alleged was complicit in electoral fraud. In response, Mr. Ghani stated that the large increase in turnout in a number of provinces was because of the effective efforts of his team to mobilize voters. On 23 June, the chief electoral officer resigned, emphasizing that he was doing so in the national interest and denying the allegations against him. On 25 June, Mr. Abdullah proposed six criteria aimed at addressing his concerns about
fraud and including proposed procedures to further audit the vote, as preconditions for his re-engagement with the electoral process. On 28 June, the Commission rejected the preconditions. On 27 June, in Kabul, Mr. Abdullah had joined a demonstration by about 15,000 of his supporters calling for allegations of fraud to be addressed. Similar but smaller demonstrations by his supporters took place in the cities of Mazar-e-Sharif and Bamyan.

7. In an effort to address fraud concerns and diffuse growing political tensions, the Commission began an audit of about 2,000 polling stations on 1 July, focused on stations where 599 or more votes had been cast (600 ballots were provided per station). The audit was rejected by Mr. Abdullah as insufficient to address his allegations of wide-scale fraud and he demanded an expansion of the audit. Beginning 4 July, representatives for both candidates engaged in bilateral discussions in an attempt to agree on a framework for a more expansive and robust audit. In doing so, they sought the good offices and technical advice of the United Nations. Efforts were also carried out under the general umbrella of a broader political dialogue between the two candidates, which was facilitated by vice presidents Mohammad Younous Qanooni and Mohammad Karim Khalili, at the request of President Karzai. Despite agreement by each side on a number of key issues, and the good offices of my Special Representative for Afghanistan, overall agreement on a new audit plan did not materialize.

8. In such a tense environment and with talks between the candidates’ teams ongoing, preliminary run-off results were released by the Commission on 7 July, against the advice of the United Nations. The preliminary results indicated a reversal of the position of the candidates from the first round, with Mr. Ghani receiving 56.4 per cent and Mr. Abdullah 43.6 per cent of the 7,947,527 valid votes. Amid calls for the unilateral establishment of a parallel government, Mr. Abdullah publicly addressed his supporters and called upon them to remain patient for a few more days. Mr. Ghani, while accepting the preliminary results, also publicly urged his supporters to show patience and await the final results. He also welcomed possible additional audits and talks to safeguard political stability. In order to help bridge the serious divisions between the two campaign teams over the credibility of the preliminary results, on 9 and 10 July the United Nations presented a robust audit plan that would cover approximately 8,050 polling stations, but agreement could not be reached with Mr. Abdullah.

9. In response to the political impasse, Secretary of State Kerry arrived in Kabul on 11 July and commenced an intensive period of shuttle diplomacy. On 12 July, in a joint press conference hosted by the United Nations, Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani confirmed their agreement on the technical and political frameworks developed in consultation with Secretary Kerry. The key technical elements of the agreement were based upon proposals developed by the United Nations, and included a full audit of all 22,828 ballot boxes used in the run-off. It was agreed that the full audit would be carried out by the Commission at its headquarters in Kabul under extensive national and international observation and supervision, and with the full participation of, and oversight by, representatives of both candidates’ teams. In accordance with the agreement and in consultation with the two candidates, the United Nations was requested to provide proposals on the conduct of the audit.

10. Both candidates agreed to participate in, and accede to the outcome of, the audit. They also agreed that the next president would form a “government of national unity”, including the establishment of the position of government chief executive officer. There was further commitment to convene a loya jirga (grand council) within two years to discuss the amendment of the Constitution to establish the position of executive prime minister, and broad agreements on parity in appointments and fundamental reforms to the electoral system within one year.

11. In order to maintain the political momentum created by the agreement, on 17 July the Commission began the physical audit of ballot boxes according to the checklist contained in the 12 July agreement. However, the two campaign teams and the Commission agreed that, while the physical audit of ballots should commence, the review of the audit findings and decisions to validate or invalidate votes would be put on hold until updated regulations on recount and invalidation criteria were agreed. In parallel, on 18 July, airlift operations were launched by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the United Nations to assist in the transport of ballot boxes used in the run-off to Kabul from the country’s other 33 provinces. The movement of ballot boxes was accompanied on each occasion by Commission officials and candidate agents, and was completed without incident on 5 August.

12. On 24 July, after 10 days of consultations with the two campaign teams and the Commission, the United Nations presented to the Commission a proposed set of recount and invalidation criteria, which were formally adopted on 30 July after further consultations with the campaign teams. Reassurance was provided that as new information was uncovered by the audit, the United Nations would consider whether the relevant procedures required refining.

13. Progress on the audit during July was slow, marked by candidate teams sporadically suspending their participation. Following the Eid al-Fitr break, and with the regulatory framework completed and discussions with candidates reaffirming commitment to complete the process in a timely fashion, the audit proceeded more smoothly. On 16 August, the Commission commenced the special scrutiny of nominated ballot boxes as part of the proposals to improve the progress of the audit process. It was agreed that each candidate could request special scrutiny of up to 3,000 ballot boxes, in order to increase confidence through heightened attention to the ballot boxes over which they had greatest concerns. All ballot boxes requiring special scrutiny underwent a full audit and were automatically recounted.

14. The improved functioning of the audit was facilitated by a global effort to mobilize several hundred electoral observers from the European Union Election Assessment Team, the Asian Network for Free Elections, the United States-based non-governmental organizations National Democratic Institute and Democracy International, and several Afghan domestic observer organizations, such as the Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan, the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Youth National and Social Organization. Furthermore, 17 international diplomatic missions in Kabul volunteered diplomatic staff to support the audit as observers. In addition to 48 resident United Nations electoral experts and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) staff, my electoral adviser, a United Nations senior international elections expert and the senior global electoral adviser of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, more than 123 electoral experts from across the United Nations were rapidly deployed from United Nations offices and missions around the world to assist in the supervision of the audit process and to provide advice on international best practices.

15. On 7 August, Secretary of State Kerry returned to Kabul to support the two candidates in refining and reaffirming the political commitments they had made on 12 July. On 8 August, Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani agreed to a joint communiqué and, at the subsequent press conference hosted by my Special Representative, stressed the need to move beyond the campaign period and to concentrate on forming a government of national unity. In the communiqué, the candidates underscored the primacy of the Constitution and reaffirmed the 12 July commitments to the political and technical tracks. They reconfirmed that the next president would form a government of national unity based on the previously agreed principles of merit and parity with the opposition, and announced that they would establish a joint commission to negotiate the details of the new government structure. The two candidates also agreed to move the audit process forward based on United Nations criteria for audit, recount and invalidations, with the goal of holding the presidential inauguration by the end of August. Both candidates and President Karzai publicly reiterated a desire to see the audit completed and a new president announced within that time frame.

16. On 17 August, in reaction to the agreement for a government of national unity, protests took place in Kandahar City with some protesters threatening to support the Taliban movement if a coalition government were “imposed” on Afghanistan and demanding that if there were to be a government of national unity, it should include the Taliban and Hizb-e Islami. On 19 August, clashes between campaign agents and temporary election workers took place at the Kabul audit site, which resulted in several injuries.

17. On 25 August, the first set of ballot adjudication decisions was released by the Independent Election Commission. This first set included 3,545 boxes; of those, the results from 72 were judged invalid and a further 697 were subject to a recount. Following the release, Mr. Abdullah’s campaign team announced its intention to withdraw from the audit process, and subsequently did so on 27 August. In the light of the withdrawal, and in order to maintain the integrity and fairness of the process, the United Nations requested Mr. Ghani’s team to withdraw its agents from the audit, thereby allowing the audit to be finalized in the presence of electoral officials, United Nations advisers and independent observers. On 5 September, the Commission announced that it had completed the physical audit of all 22,828 ballot boxes.

18. The final results of the provincial council elections held on 5 April were originally due to be released on 7 June, but the consideration by the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission of complaints related to those elections was put on hold amid work to conclude the presidential elections. On 16 August the Complaints Commission resumed the adjudication of 2,918 complaints related to the provincial council polls, requesting the Independent Election Commission to conduct a recount of ballot boxes from Kabul, Nangarhar, Parwan and Baghlan provinces.

19. During the reporting period, the National Assembly approved a number of laws, including on the combating the financing of terror and on combating money laundering, which were enacted by the President on 26 June. The laws on social welfare, on mining and on access to information were also approved by both houses.