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Editorial: Election security at stake

Long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections has been planned for 20th October, almost three years past the expiry of the sitting parliament’s five-year mandate – despite major security and logistical challenges and amid pressure of increasingly impatient international partners and consecutive security brass promises to hold the elections prelude to the presidential elections next year. The drastically lingering postponement in the elections for three years is a byproduct of political disputes and wrangling over voter registration. An ambitious biometric registration system originally envisaged as a means of avoiding massive voter fraud that marred the 2014 presidential vote was abandoned last year due to discrepancies and contention over its contents. Much of the prelude to the election has focused on the debate over the legislation and finalization of the biometric system.

But the 2018 poll date looks to be an impossible milestone. The vote will encounter hurdles in the sphere of electoral technicalities and declining security in many parts of the country, in addition to a stalled biometric registration. A major push to register voters, many of whom devoid of identity cards, will need to be accomplished prior to October deadline – which is a daunting task in the face of indigenous disagreements over the formalities of the process. A more daunting task would be to secure the ballots where the government control is minimal and whitewashed by the militants.

There is no denying to the fact that for credible and transparent elections, security is indispensable. However, neither desired awareness drives have been launched nor the security situation is promising. Despite these facts, Afghans have a burning desire to be part of the democratic transition of power amidst hurdles such as lack of voting cards.

Defense brass should have a robust security management and have security forces run all-out clearance operations across turbulent areas not under the government control to assure a higher voter turnout. Public campaigns at union councils’ level should be launched while engaging local elders, mullahs and teachers, to tell locals and students how important the next elections are. The voters should be told that if want to take their destiny into their hands and ensure development of the country then they must get out of their homes to get voting cards and cast ballots without fearing for their lives as it would be the big day for the nation and its future.

Although the prospects of managing an election as soon as October is unlikely, but any further delay in the election will besmirch the image of even a nascent democracy in the country. The turnout of all Afghans in the electoral process is very critical as the time is lapsing and the process could be easily derailed. Lingering voter registration process and aggravating security need to be resolved before election is delayed to the next summer with the presidential vote.

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