Campaign Finance Oversight in the 2009 Presidential Elections in Afghanistan

Publication Date: 
24 Nov 2010

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Introduction

Organising elections and democratic governance in a post-conflict situation is never easy, and this is particularly so in Afghanistan, which struggles with a long history of conflict and armed groupings that do not accept the current form of civil governance.

One of the many issues that need to be addressed is the transparency of the financial affairs of political parties and electoral candidates. Electoral processes that are technically well administered can nonetheless be rendered next to meaningless if the election is de facto bought by some candidates. The regulation of political party and campaign finance is a very complicated endeavour, one which no country has yet mastered completely, in spite of attempts that have in some cases been ongoing for centuries. However, that completing something takes a long time to achieve is not an argument for not taking the first steps. It is therefore encouraging that the electoral process in Afghanistan includes regulations aimed at overseeing political party and campaign finance.

The purpose of this report is to analyse the campaign finance oversight system put in place by the IEC for the 2009 Presidential elections. It is aimed more at those interested in political finance issues overall than at people concerned with Afghani politics and elections. Subsequently, it will not provide a background to the political system in Afghanistan, nor explore the credibility of the 2009 Presidential elections as a whole.

In the interest of full transparency, it should be made clear that the author of this report is not a neutral observer of the oversight system that was put in place for the 2009 elections. I worked together with the Legal Department at the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and in particular with the Political Finance Unit (PFU) in the preparations for and reception of financial reports from Presidential candidates.1 This work included the drafting, in cooperation with the PFU, of various documents and procedures later used by the IEC in its work. Nonetheless, this report is intended to identify both successes and shortcomings of the procedures put in place and how they were implemented. Recommendations are presented both on how the political finance regulatory system can be improved overall and suggested reforms ahead of the 2010 Wolesi Jirga elections.