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Election Day, Saturday April 5

Finally, it is over! Saturday, from 5 am and earlier to midnight our team worked in Kabul non-stop to monitor the election progress throughout the country. The work was being done in several buildings in Kabul, by the staff of the Headquarters, the women's group, the youth group, the staff of the National Coalition of Afghanistan and the staff of Dr. Abdullah's partners such as the Jamiat party as well as the staff of the two vice-presidents.
 
The work itself was on several directions: Liaising with the Independent Election Commission, the security forces, our offices in the 34 provinces, the media, attending to all the complaints,
providing legal assistance in deciding on issues, administrative work and a myriad of other issues.  
 
The biggest areas were the area of observers and receiving/listening to complaints. For several weeks we had worked hard to find almost 42,000 observers for all the open voting centers around the country. The challenge on the Election Day was to ensure that most of them came to their voting centers and stayed there until closing, and for us to find replacement if anyone of them called in sick!
 
Our other problem was to receive and document the complaints: We had developed a system of receiving and inputting the complaints in a database. We then distributed them to a large group of knowledgeable people to put the complaint in the acceptable format and process the ones they could. This was the nerve center of our operation: A large room with an extra large oval table and each person with several cellphones, many of us working two phones at the same time.
 
In intervals we would assimilate and aggregate the complaints and relay them to the higher echelons of the organization. At one point Dr. Abdullah and his entourage came by for a long spell to get the information from up close.
 
One of our first concerns in the early morning was women's attendance: It was raining and there was a curfew on vehicles being in the city and so we wanted to make sure that under such circumstances our groups would not balk at going to the polls. Our Women's Committee started hitting the phones, encouraging one and all to go and vote. Time to have a cup of tea/coffee.
 
By 9 am our complaints section was hitting a high note: The number of complaints was beginning to be large - - and continued to be so up to the end - - so that every one of us assigned to this task was busy, and we had to have more people!
 
Our concern was also over the security situation: I live far from the election headquarters and had to go through over forty checkpoints; I had forgotten my official campaign card and was on a taxi, both of which were cause for the security personnel not allowing me into the city... Fortunately, the police and the army that were out were kind and understanding. 
 
Throughout the day, we received news of gunfire and explosions in several provinces, even a few people lost their lives. However, at the end of the day we were heaving a sigh of relief that the Taliban were not successful in their promise to totally disrupt the election process! By pouring into the voting centers in such numbers, the people of Afghanistan had resoundingly rejected the Taliban and their philosophy; they had formed a forbidding wall of rejecting the
Taliban!
 
Lunch was served at the slowest time of the day - - near the noon prayer, according to one unconfirmed report to almost 3000 people, bread, rice, a little meat, potatoes and a little salad and a piece of fruit!
 
Our observers and complaint processors as well as our people who listened to the media kept a watchful eye on the level of fraud. We remembered our last campaign in 2009 and we did not want our supporters to experience it again! We had a few tense moments - - many calls that voting centers were not open on time, many centers without enough staff, many calls that some of the boxes were already filled with ballots in favor of one or the other candidate, many calls that many voting centers ran out of ballots long before the end of the election period... We worked hard to report many of these on time to the IEC. By now some of us needed another cup of tea/coffee!
 
Because so many people were in the voting lines, the IEC extended the end of the voting period from 4 pm to 6 pm. Still there were people who did not get the chance...
 
After 6 pm, as it was beginning to get dark we first worked to ensure that our female observers got home alright and then turned our attention to the complaints. Which ones were really big, which ones could be a reporter's own emotional assessment, what categories of complaints, and many other questions and details.
 
We also started to process some of the reports from our observers from the voting sites and centers regarding the final count. The phones began to ring again... At 8 pm some of us were tired and hungry and dinner was getting close, rice, paacha (hoofs - yummy!), meatballs, bread, a little salad and a piece of fruit.  Fortunately the electricity was holding on too!
 
Around 8:30 pm Dr. Abdullah went on TV to report his evaluation of the process: Hooray for the people; their steadfast support of democracy; their willingness to stand in the rain for hours; their patience and grace under the harsh weather and scary security forecast; hooray for our security forces to buttress the threat! And on to the fresh responsibilities for the IEC and the Independent Complaint Commission to ensure that they remain true to the people's vote! 
 
Another cup of tea at 10 pm, and almost the end of another Election Day! Whew!
 
Or maybe our real work has just started! Enshaa'allaah! 
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A number of Afghan election monitoring groups have warned that the runoff round of this year's presidential race could face increased fraud on the part of candidates so long as the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) have staff members supporting one or the other candidate and engaging in fraud themselves. more......

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