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Gioca anche tu? Il voto in Afghanistan…

20 ottobre 2009

The Majlis caustico sul New York Times… e forse non hanno tutti i torti!

The Afghan Election Fraud Game, You Can Play Too!

The New York Times, citing anonymous officials and its own analysis, is reporting that incumbent President Hamid Karzai will lose a whopping 874,000 votes in the recount of Afghanistan’s fraudulent August election, shrinking his share of the total to somewhere between 48 and 49 percent and necessitating a runoff.

Gregg has already written about Karzai’s disappearing margin of victory and the byzantine recount decision, overseen by the joint United Nations/Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission and released yesterday, that is making it disappear.

Byzantine or not, what makes the ECC’s recount fun for the whole family is the fact that the organization is releasing basically all of its data in raw form. That means you too can spend endless hours deducing where the fraud took place, from the comfort of your own home. Here’s how to do it (bonus points if you can tell us how the Times got to the number 874,000):

The ECC made three major decisions, each of which has to be approved by the Independent Election Commission, an Afghan-only body.

Step One: The first decision totally invalidated 210 polling stations around Afghanistan, nullifying all of the votes cast at those stations.

You can find a list of invalidated polling stations on an ECC .pdf file here, but it only lists them by number. To find out which stations those are, and how many votes that actually means, you need to refer to the IEC’s election results by polling station, available in a massive .pdf file here or on a more easily managed Web page here.

Take the number of the invalidated polling station from the ECC, let’s say number 101332 in Kabul, which was located as the Osman Ghani mosque. Find that number on the IEC’s page, and you’ll see that Karzai will lose 170 votes if the recount is approved, while Abdullah will lose 207. Repeat this step for 209 other stations and, according to the Times, you’ll find that Karzai loses 41,000 votes and Abdullah loses only 10,807.

Step Two: In the month after the election, the IEC “quarantined” 646 polling stations where it thought fraud had taken place and passed on the information to the ECC for a recount. The votes from those stations were never officially counted. The ECC has decided that all but 18 of those polling stations should remain uncounted.

As far as I can tell, it’s impossible to figure out exactly how many votes Karzai and Abdullah will gain from having those 18 stations added back. We can refer to an ECC .pdf file here to find out which 18 polling stations will now be added to the final tally, but we can’t cross reference that with the IEC list of results by polling station because those 18 stations were never included in the results.

Fourteen of the 18 stations, located in the Ghazni province, aren’t even listed on the IEC’s results page (official results say Karzai defeated Abdullah in Ghazni by a margin of more than 110,000). But we can at least guess at what kind of votes were registered at those 14 stations. Three other polling stations in the province whose listed identification numbers are close to those of the newly validated stations (for what that’s worth) show Karzai winning 778, 73 and 31 votes, respectively. My very rough guess would be that the 14 stations in Ghazni that will now be counted will not add more than one or two thousand votes to Karzai, but without knowing where those stations were located, it’s impossible to say.

The four remaining newly validated stations were located in the Kandahar province, and the polling centers where they were located actually do show up on the IEC results page, though the columns for the specific quarantined polling stations were left blank. Karzai won 11,099 votes at those four polling centers. If you taking the average number of votes cast per polling station for each center, it looks like Karzai will gain around 1,390 votes from getting those Kandahar stations added back to his total.

Add the Kandahar votes to the Ghazni votes and you’ve got a gain of several thousand for Karzai. Not much in the grand scheme of things, especially when you consider the third and most important decision the ECC made.

That brings us to…

Step Three: The ECC decided to subtract a certain number of votes from each candidate based on a “coefficient of fraud” it calculated through a sampling of polling stations. With more than 3,000 potentially fraudulent polling stations to deal with, the ECC couldn’t count every single vote everywhere, so they reviewed 10 percent. Gregg has already written about how this worked, and why its confusing.

The ECC divided the fraudulent polling stations into six categories, explained here. The confusion resides in the difference between “valid votes” and “total votes.” For instance, Category A1 includes polling stations in which 600 or more valid votes were cast, but category A2 includes polling stations in which 600 or more total votes were cast, except those already covered in A1. The ECC is calling for candidates to receive only around 73 percent of their votes from the polling stations in both of those categories, but without a list of which polling stations fall into which category, how are we supposed to know how many votes Karzai will lose?

We know which stations the ECC used in its sample (they’re listed here). And we also know which polling stations are subject to the recount: Either they reported a turnout of 600 or more, or they recorded vote tallies that gave 95 percent or more of the total to one candidate (with a minimum of 100 votes). The Times has a map of these polling stations, complete with numbers for how many votes they represent. But since the ECC has broken the categories down further, and has differentiated between valid and total vote counts (which only they know) and then applied six different “coefficients of fraud” to reduce the vote totals category by category, it seems impossible to arrive at a solid determination of how many votes that means.

Nevertheless, the Times says that Karzai will lose 874,000 votes based on the metrics applied by the audit. Gregg has already asked for your help readers. You’ve got all the data laid out in front of you. Are we missing something here?


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