New electoral model for Afghanistan suggested
KABUL: Afghanistan’s current electoral system is less effective as it retards democracy, impedes growth of matured political parties and leads to corruption, a think-tank said on Monday.
The Kabul-based Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) said the present Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV) used in polls had major flaws that stifled democracy by undermining the development of viable parties in the Wolesi Jirga or the lower house of parliament.
In a paper titled “Fixing Afghanistan’s Electoral System”, the authors observed Afghan needed to shift from the SNTV model to a more effective system such as the proportional representation (PR) system used in advanced democracies.
Trouble-prone Afghanistan uses the SNTV in all 34 provinces, multi-member constituencies with a special affirmative action (quota) mechanism for women, and it has not changed since 2005 elections.
“Afghan SNTV has performed as many skeptics predicted it would. In its first seven years, the Wolesi Jirga has shown itself to be a place of wheeling and dealing, of clientelism and shifting alliances, and an arena where individuals with tainted pasts hold significant sway over the future,” said AREU in its 23-paged findings.
Under the SNTV method each voter gets a single vote to cast for a single candidate and the top vote-getters win up to the number of seats in a given constituency.
“The present way to elect members of parliament is flawed as it presents a serious obstacle to the development of effective legislative representation, which in turn is essential to the quality of democracy,” noted the think-tank.
The paper articulated that while Afghan’s electoral system needs to be revamped, it should be done carefully “to avoid wholesale overhauls and as far as possible to build on existing institutions and experience.”
The authors offered five recommendations how reforms should be instituted:
i) Any reform should build on the current system and avoid radical change.
ii) Complexity of the existing system can be reduced by having fewer MPs elected within each provincial constituency, leading to fewer candidates, the lower likelihood of a fragmented vote, and more manageable ballot papers.
ii) Significant space needs to be created to encourage and facilitate development of political parties and groupings and alliances that are emerging within the current parliament. Political blocs will, over time, become more formalised and the system should allow voters to take them into consideration during elections.
iv) Any new system needs to protect the space for the election of popular and legitimate independent candidates, and
v) It is crucial to avoid complexity within the system and to educate the electorate on not merely how to vote but how their vote will affect the government that forms.
AREU also proposed two alternative models: A mixed election system --SNTV-PR and the mixed system of Limited Vote and PR (LV-PR).
Under the SNTV-PR model the Wolesi Jirga would remain 249 members in size and 159 MPs would be elected by the SNTV system across the provinces in a manner largely similar to the 2005/2010 polls.
The LV-PR varies slightly from the SNTV-PR --- rather than a SNTV, voters would be allowed to indicate preferences for up to two candidates on their ballots. As in the SNTV-PR proposal, candidates would choose whether to join alliances to compete for the national-level PR seats, or alternatively to run as pure independents.
The paper also said both these proposed alternatives are similar to the June 2012 Independent Election Commission’s proposal, in that they all envision a mix of SNTV and list PR with a two-thirds to one-third division of seats between the two tiers.
“Ultimately, a successful revision to the election system could encourage the formation and alliances of parties, reduce fragmentation within the Wolesi Jirga, enhance the connection between voters and their representatives, and satisfy most political elites who are outside the president’s core circle.
“The road to reform will likely be rough and any proposed alternative to the current system will confront resistance,” said AREU.--(PAN)
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