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Editorial: Dim prospect of free, fair election

Afghanistan is going to hold presidential election on April 20, 2019—this would be the fourth time since the Taliban were toppled from power in 2001. But of course much work needed to meet that timeline. In the face of complexity for October 20 parliamentary and district council elections, which have been marred by technical and organizational issues, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced presidential poll without resolving current problems. Security, and funding as well as the short time frame between elections would present the biggest challenges to the poll. But the biggest one is trust-deficit between the commission and Afghan masses, including political parties. This is key problems to be resolved on immediate move. Many Afghans cast shadow over free, fair, and transparent elections that already marred by widespread fraud. We, the Afghans demand greater transparency in our elections. There are some criteria which is very necessary for election results to be trusted. The first one is a biometric based voting, where the chance of fraud is 99 percent low. Second, monitoring of process by representatives of all parties, including foreign agencies, like United Nation Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in a bid to further give creditability to its accuracy. Each step of the election process should be easily understood and open to scrutiny by all stakeholders (voters, political parties, outside observers and others). All results should be independently verifiable and auditable. Ghost voting must be stopped immediately, only eligible voters should be allowed to vote and those votes must be protected from any alteration of exclusion. This is the core duty of IEC that has to discharge its obligation honestly and transparently. Moreover, all eligible voters, regardless of location, group membership or disability, should have reasonable and equal opportunity to cast their ballot. Can IEC able to run such crystal clear elections? The answer is no so far. Free, and fair election is our demand, but it’s not possible sans biometric system. However, a voter registration discrepancy also surfaced after the election commission earlier declared nine million had registered to vote, a figure some parliamentarians and politicos dismisses as exaggerated. Two options on the table – 1, to overcome trust-deficit by having a biometric based voting –and 2, is to invalided registration process and resumed back once biometric system kicked off. This is best and only way to ensure transparency in elections.

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