September 02, 2009

Election fraud... in Shorabak?

Odd story yesterday from the usually reliable Dexter Filkins about election fraud in Kandahar Province.

The central premise, which Yglesias and others have commented on, is undoubtedly true. Karzai's brother is undoubtedly a powerful man, perhaps the most powerful man, in the south. And election fraud in the country has undoubtedly been rampant. But some of the details of this story don't scan.

The synopsis is that the Bariz tribe of Shorabak district says all 23,000 of its votes, which they had intended to cast as a bloc for Abdullah, have been converted by Karzai's brother into votes for the sitting president. Check.

Trouble is, Shorabak is something of a desert wasteland, almost completely uninhabited, part of the Reg desert south and west of Spin Boldak. It's doubtful it has more than 10,000 actual residents, most of them nomadic. During election registration when I was there, it had exactly 1 registration station open in the entire district. So I'm not clear on how it would suddenly have 23,000 adult residents of the same tribe, or why the district would suddenly have 45 polling locations. That simply doesn't make sense. There aren't 45 hamlets with over 10 adults in them in the entire district. (45 would be a credible number for the polling stations in all of Kandahar Province, perhaps.)

That, combined with other little details (I'm having trouble finding any reference to the Bariz tribe of Shorabak dated before Filkins' article, the tribal head is called the "governor" of Shorabak, rather than the district leader, which would be his proper title; only provinces, not districts, have governors) suggests some significant measure of detail has been lost in translation or obfuscated here.

To be fair, whether you *wanted* to engage in massive election fraud, *or* make an unproveable allegation of massive fraud, Shorabak would be the place to do it. But on the surface, it seems one attempt to deliver a large and quite possibly fraudulent bloc of votes to Abdullah (What, you think those 23,900 Bariz members, assuming they even exist, could in any meaningful way be said to have participated in a democratic process? With the men casting ballots for all the women in their households, and the tribal elder dictating which way all the men would vote? We're not talking about 23,000 people lining up to cast ballots at election booths, regardless.) was intercepted and circumvented by AWK.

Posted by BruceR at 09:11 AM