Upcoming elections and its challenges
By Mohammad Sarwar Ahmadzai-Elections are the backbone of democracy–democracy and elections are synonymous with each other, in the absence of true and transparent elections democracy in not envisaged. People can determine the future of their country through elections. Democracy has evolved through different phases as every country has a different history, geography and political systems.
In the past, democracy was not rampant in many countries and a ruler used to be chosen on power based and social status but with the passing of time and the changes brought in social, political and economic field and people’s awareness of their rights has ended the old systems of choosing rulers on power base and social status, a new area ushered where people could choose their ruler through elections. Some countries have adopted to choose their rulers earlier than other countries. Using of votes is an important issue in elections and people now chose their president and parliament members through transparent elections. Many countries have recognized individual’s rights to vote and they included these rights in their respective constitutions.
In Afghanistan Democracy has strengthened and people awareness increased about their rights to vote after the collapse of Taliban regime and the formation of transition government under the leadership of Hamid Karzai in 2001. People found this as a good opportunity to elect their president and representatives in parliament. But elections turned worse after the announcement of elections results by the independent elections commission (IEC) in 2014 with reports of mass fraud which diminished elections credibility and created political economic and security problems.
2014 presidential elections challenges
The 2014 presidential and provincial elections faced many problems and challenges, the elections commissioners were not appointed on merit-based and they had political inclinations. Second, warlords, politicians and government official’s interference in elections, third, some government institutions were not independent and they had relations with different political parties, fourth, the elections commissions did not maintain its independence and credibility during elections. Fifth, lack of knowledge and experience in supporters of elections candidates, they did not accept election result and charged the election commission of fraud. Sixth, foreigner’s interfered in elections extensively and favored one candidate against another and seventh sowing ethnic and political discord by some candidates among people during elections, created national and political crisis in Afghanistan.
As we are taking preparation for the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections and the IEC has announced the date for elections and the voter registrations process began but lack of people’s participation in the elections, possible interference by warlords has increased people’s concern and doubt about transparency and legitimacy of the upcoming elections.
Many questions arise about independence and effectiveness of the elections commission as its members are not independent and impartial and they have relations with different political parties, for the conduction of transparent election it is important for the members of the election commission to remain independent and should not have membership of any political party.
The IEC should have its own budget for conduction of the upcoming elections and it should not receive budget from the ministry of finance as it would challenge (IEC) credibility and independence and the MoF has to observe budget spending process.
Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani repeatedly said that they will not allow anyone to interfere in elections and Ghani wanted the parliament members not to interfere in the elections, but it is said that government officials support some political parties. Will the IEC be able to prevent interference in elections by warlords, government officials and parliament members?
If the independent elections commission members do not prevent parliament members, warlords and government official’s interference in the elections, it will diminish (IEC) legitimacy and Afghanistan will once again face with election and political crisis.
Conflict is the biggest challenge for the upcoming elections, militants have opposed the elections process and they have attacked voter registration centers in different parts of the country. People don’t want to take part in elections process due to insecurity and instability. If this continues it will deprive many people to take part and vote in the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections and it will pose a big challenge for the legitimacy and independence of elections.
The IEC has decided to put sticker of the original tazkira (national identity cards) to prevent possible fraud and people will face security problems as militants would target them easily and cause elections fraud.
People do not have good experience from past elections due to lack of transparency, mass fraud, interference by foreigners, warlords and government officials that have increased lack of trust among people. They will not take part in the upcoming election and they do not trust election.
The IEC members in the past valued their personal interest, setrain and tribal issues than national issues and faced Afghanistan with huge crisis. And they are concerned that the upcoming elections would again create problems and they do not take part in the voter registration process. People think their votes are worthless as some people find way to parliament through power and relations. The people of Afghanistan ask if their votes are not important why they should vote, what are the benefits for us and why we face security threats.
People do not trust the independent elections commission and they ask, do the independent election commission have any pragmatic mechanism and policy to prevent fraud in elections. Now it is necessary for the independent elections commission to get the trust of people and guarantee the upcoming elections transparency.
The independent election commission announced those people can vote who have national identity cards, it will debar people who live in rural areas including women as half of women in the far flung areas do not have tazkiras as most people have in the cities. The election commission has to care about this issue as it will deprive women who comprise half of Afghan society from the right to vote and it is in conflict with the constitution of Afghanistan and the wishes of the people to vote and the election commission will lose its legitimacy. Despite these problems the IEC members do not have the stability of opinions and they changes their opinions every day, difference of opinions among the election commissioners will face the election with the crises of illegitimacy
The population figure is not known in Afghanistan but it is estimated that 14 million people are eligible to take part in elections but very less people had taken part in the voter registration process. If 7 million or less than 7 million people register themselves as voters it will still diminish elections legitimacy.
The election commission talks about the election constituencies which is effective but it became a political issue and its statistic is also difficult. The IEC has not monitored 30 percent voter registration centers and they do not have information about them meanwhile the elections date is near and the registration list is difficult to make soon.
Another problem for the IEC is that will they implement election rules on all candidates equally, do they have pragmatic paganisms for the implantation of election rules, if they have they should share it with political parties and the people of Afghanistan.
The following steps will help the independent election commission to facilitate condition for fair and transparent elections in Afghanistan:
First, they should not repeat the mistakes of the previous elections and create trust among people and political parties and prevent fraud in the upcoming elections.
Second, the independent election commission has to provide enough information to people about process, values and importance.
Third, the IEC has to explore different ways as many people do not have tazkira (national identity cards), including half of women, some people do not want to put stickers on their original tazkira.
Fourth, the independent election commission has to prevent possible interference by warlords and government officials.
Fifth, the IEC has to crated elections constituencies as it will pave the ways for transparency in elections if the constituencies are not properly specified then it would create disrupt elections transparency.
Sixth, IEC has to differentiate among election commoners as they are not committed to national interests but work for personal interests and tribal and ethnic issues and they work for their personal interests,
Seventh, government and the IEC should prevent possible interference by foreign embassies in Kabul as they always tried to interfere in the election process in the past, if they interfere in the upcoming election it will diminish the election legitimacy.