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Electoral reforms need of the hour

The presidential elections that led to the formation of the National Unity Government (NUG) were a revealing snapshot of what has been achieved in Afghanistan. Though, our democracy is not matured yet, but despite that the democratic transfer of power by ex-President Hamid Karzai to the incumbent Ashraf Ghani speaks volumes about the success of this new set up in the country. Even now, political differences are there in the NUG, nevertheless despite flaws, this is something better than despotism or an exotic-theocracy being exported by a neighboring country—a country that doesn’t tolerate theocracy at home but yearns to see it imposed in Afghanistan. As has happened elsewhere in the developing world, elections here were also tense and fraught with rigging that unleashed a highly detrimental political crisis. The crisis risked too many gains. Luckily it was prevented by international intervention. Now the promise of the NUG to reform electoral bodies is a welcoming gesture. A member of the Parliament and the Chairperson of the new Electoral Reform Commission,  Shukria Barakzai, pledged reforms in structure of the national electoral bodies. She hinted of keeping some of the electoral commissions members on the chopping block. To overcome the deepening rift over electoral reforms mechanism, the reform commission was established shortly before the visit of President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah to the United States. A presidential decree led to the formation of a 15-member committee. MP Barakzai is the chairperson of this commission while Sediqullah Tauhidi is the Deputy Chairman. Since the 2014 presidential elections were fraught with massive scale rigging. The fraud allegations unleashed a tense situation where none of the candidates, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah was ready to budge even an inch. There is no more any political stalemate but yes despite that state affairs are not going smoothly as there are still some differences between the two leaders of the current government. Voters looked alienated. Their confidence sagged. Their huge sacrifices betrayed and their hopes dashed to ground. Many believed democracy is incompatible in this country. However, all that is the past. What the government currently needs is to overcome corruption, reconstruct people’s confidence, and introduce reforms in the electoral commissions. To reconstruct people’s confidence and win their trust, the government will have to make institutions countable and responsible. The government will have to introduce meritocracy. Political and electoral reforms are need of the hour. To ensure the government is sincere in its efforts to bring about substantial changes in governance, political set up, and elections, it will have to discourage filibuster and gerrymandering. But the problem is the government looks all-mouth and no-performer. If being all-mouth is the solution then actions wouldn’t have any place in politics. Therefore, the government should be mindful that no political action and movement is possible when discussion and political rhetoric permanently is established. The two leaders still look busy in a tacit internal war, but the rising violence should motivate the ruling elite to settle their feuds and turn their attention to the deepening economic, political, and security challenges. The sooner they realize the importance of reforms and commitments the sooner the country will see the dawn of freedom—freedom from terror, militancy, corruption, political instability, economic bondage, and foreign interferences. If the government wants to prevent the recurrence of what the nation witnessed in the 2014 presidential race, it will have to reform the electoral commissions at all costs.

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