ECC Begins Open Complaints Review

KABUL: (MEP) – A week after the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) began gathering and reviewing complaints filed against Presidential and Provincial Council candidates, it started the first stage of its assessment process open to observers today.

The ECC said it will be evaluating the hundreds of complaints it has received starting Sunday in front of civil society groups, political parties, human rights activists, media representatives and national and international election monitoring organizations. It marks the first time the complaints process will be open to scrutiny, part of broader efforts to make the 2014 election process transparent and credible.

“The difference of the investigation of complaints this time from previous elections is that this will be a public investigation,” said ECC Secretariat head Nader Mohseni.

The ECC and Independent Election Commission (IEC) have come under fire recently by civil society groups and candidates who were disqualified by the IEC two weeks ago when the preliminary list was announced. Many have criticized the election organizers for not being transparent enough in their vetting of candidates and the complaints registration process, tolo reported.

The ECC will likely be under the microscope this week as it goes through complaints, which could prove a particularly controversial part of the pre-election process. A number of allegations have already been launched publically against some of the Presidential candidates regarding involvement in human rights abuses and corruption.

The ECC is not the only body that will be involved in the complaints review process, however. According to procedure, any complaints related to human rights violations are to be forwarded on to judicial bodies for investigation.

Of the 650 complaints ECC officials have reportedly registered at their office in Kabul, 27 of them are against Presidential candidates. Officials declined to offer any more details about the nature or targets of complaints.

In order to field complaints in provinces outside of Kabul, the ECC was forced to use IEC satellite offices. Still only those from 25 provinces are said to have arrived at the office in the capital where the open review will begin on Sunday.

“The transferring of complaints from IEC provincial offices is ongoing,” IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said on Saturday. “The first round is finished, but still the more recent complaints remain in the provinces.”

The ECC’s complaints process has seen a number of setbacks, only one of which has been the challenges facing the transportation of complaint documents into Kabul. The gathering of complaints got off to a delayed start in the first place thanks to the IEC’s delayed announcement of the preliminary list.

That announcement, made on October 22 instead of October 19 as was originally planned, was not well-received by the 16 Presidential and nearly 400 Provincial Council candidates who were cut out of the running for next spring’s elections. A number of them accused the IEC of mistakes, and in some cases, malfeasance.

It is likely the ECC will have received a large amount of challenges from aggrieved would-be candidates seeking to appeal the IEC’s decisions. But Complaints Commission officials have said they will prioritize complaints against eligible candidates over challenges by eliminated candidates during the review process.

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