By Zia ul Islam Shirani / CSRS
After about three years of delay in holding parliamentary elections, the IEC finally announced the final date of holding elections, and so the Wolesi Jirga and District Councils’ elections are scheduled to be held this year (Mizan, 1397).
By announcing the final date for the elections, the voter registration process began on 25 Hamal in the centers of all provinces of the country, which will continue until 23 Sawr, and will later be transferred to the districts and villages. but after passing of about two weeks, the people participation in the voter registration process has been inconspicuous for various reasons, and thus, the leaders of the national unity government (NUG) have expressed concern over this issue.
The head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), on the day of the announcement of the election calendar, pledged that he would not allow anyone to fraud, and urged all the people to cooperate with the commission in preventing electoral fraud; but the delay of three years in holding parliamentary elections as well as the widespread fraudulent experience in the past election are the factors that undermine people’s belief in the transparency of the process.
In this analysis, the current electoral process, the challenges encountered by the elections as well as their transparency and universality are addressed.
Delay in Holding Parliamentary Elections
According to the second clause of Article 83 of the Constitution of Afghanistan, the Wolesi Jirga’s term of office is ended on the first day of Saratan of the fifth year after the announcement of the results of the elections and the new council should be, then, commenced. But the Afghan government was unable to hold elections on a statutory basis and, according to a declaration issued by the Presidential Office on 29 Jawza, 1394, the Wolesi Jirga’s term of office was extended until the next election results were announced.
Three years later, due to political disputes in the country, despite the fact that the elections date were announced several times, the government did not succeed in holding elections due to political problems and dissents. On 28 Jadi, 1394, as the previous election commission had announced that the parliamentary elections will be held on 24 Mizan, 1395; however, this announcement encountered oppositions. The Chief Executive of the government insisted that the entire work should be done by the “New Commission” and that the electoral system should be reformed before the Parliamentary Elections.
After settlement of the issue of electoral reforms in the second year of the National Unity Government (NUG), elections commissions were finally formed and started to operate. Although the NUG spoke about holding Parliamentary Elections during 1396, the new election commission, on the first day of Saratan of 1396, announced that Parliamentary and District Councils’ elections will be held on 16 Saratan, 1397.
The mentioned date also became changed, and due to technical, financial and security problems, eventually, 28 Mizan, 1397, became announced as the final date for holding the Parliamentary Elections; and with its announcement, the practical work for the aim of its implementation process begun. But, nevertheless, nowadays the mistrust regarding adequacy of the election commissions has increased sharply due to the government’s lack of commitment to its obligations, and thus, people are not more likely to believe in the transparency of the upcoming elections.
The Election Process
In accordance with the Election Law, the election calendar must be determined and announced 120 days prior to the Election Day. So, last week (2 Sawr 1397), the IEC leadership announced the election calendar of Parliamentary and District Councils’ elections in a public meeting with the media, representatives of political parties and civil society organizations
According to the announced calendar, the registration and provision of voters’ list takes place from 25 Hamal to 23 Sawr in the Provincial Centers and from 25 Sawr to 7 Jawza in districts and from 9 to 22 Jawza in villages, and so the complete list of all voters will be announced on Assad 23 accordingly. Also, the registration of candidates will take place from 5 to 22 Jawza, the election campaign from 6 to 25 Mizan, and finally the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections will be announced on Aqrab 19 and its final results will be announced on Qaws 29, and the preliminary results of the district councils’ elections will be announced on Jadi 18 and the final one will be announced on Dalwa 4.
In this election, for the registration process and submission of voters’ list who have reached the age of 18, Tazkira (Nationa ID Card), as the sole authentic national document is used and all of its forms are credible. For those who do not have Tazkira, the Population Registration Department has begun to distribute Tazkira for about 10 million eligible voters, and it is still continuing. Therefore, the use of previous voting cards in the upcoming election was canceled.
Eligible Voters are registered after they attend the registration centers; they will be registered on the basis of the information in their Tazkira, and the certificate will be affixed with the security tag on the back of the Tazkira. Attestation of registration is followed by a unique registered number, the polling station and the code of the polling station; and therefore, one cannot cast vote in the polling station other than the mentioned one.
Challenges to the Elections
- Security Situation: Poor security situation in the country is one of the major challenges encouraged by the election process; because a successful and comprehensive election requires maintenance of security in the country.
According to a report by SIGAR, more than 40% of the districts are under the control of the Taliban, or there is a war on them. On the other hand, increase in the deadly attacks of the armed opposition of the government in the midst of the big cities and towns is another challenge for the Afghan people that challenges the electoral process.
Since the beginning of the registration process, several attacks have been carried out on voter registration and Tazkira distribution centers, the bloodiest of which occurred in the sixth district of Kabul on a voter registration center last week, and about 70 people, including women and children were killed and more than 120 wounded.
- Electoral Mechanism: According to the mechanism announced by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), Tazkira is the only valid document for voting; however, when a person is registered for a vote, a sticker is installed on his/her Tazkira, making it difficult for some people, due to security threats, to participate in the process and it is a matter of concern for them and therefore, they, then, do not participate in the registration process.
last week (Sawr 4, 1397), Ghazni Governor, Abdul Karim Matin, in this regard, said that 80 percent of the people in the province, while attending the voting registration centers, are not ready to have stickers installed on their Tazkira due to security threats.
- Transparency: Lack of people’s confidence in the transparency of the Parliamentary Elections process is another challenge to this process. During the past 17 years, as there was widespread corruption and fraud in all processes of elections, and even the elections of 2009 and 2014 practically tuned into a crisis in the country and the electoral teams confronted each other, people’s confidence in the voting and overall the election process in Afghanistan decreased sharply.
Given the past experiences, most people now believe that people are achieving seats through fraud and forging, and their participation in the Elections does not have any meaning!
While the Independent Election Commission (IEC) ensures transparency in the electoral process, but members of the Afghan Senate criticize the Tazkira distributing system, saying that a person will receive several Tazkira in different names. For example, a member of the Senate, Gulali Akbari, said at a general meeting of the parliament that one of her bodyguards has taken Tazkira three times in different centers.
Will the Elections be Inclusive and Transparent?
Transparent and all-encompassing elections in a country is directly related to the sovereignty of the state over all of its geography and nation, and it is then possible for that country to have a strong and dominant system and government.
In Afghanistan, lack of sovereignty of the state over all of the country’s geography, security situation, the mechanism and procedure for voting registration, concern over corruption and fraud in the electoral process, etc. are the issues that have shadowed the Wolesi Jirga and district councils elections.
Given the challenges, the interest of the people in registering for the voting is also low, and according to the Independent Election Commission (IEC), during the first week of voter registration across Afghanistan, only 230,000 had registered themselves. Given that the election commission has already scheduled the voter registration process for two months, and considering the first week of the process, by the end of this period, only about two million people will become registered, while according to the election commission, about 13 to 14 million people are eligible to vote. So, if this process goes so as slowly as it is, the legitimacy of this process will be questioned.
Generally, the deteriorating security situation in the country and the Taliban’s call on people to boycott the elections, lack of awareness of the people about the election, the existence of corruption and fraud, and the mechanism used for holding elections are factors have challenged the comprehensiveness and transparency of the Wolesi Jirga and District Councils elections.