According to the agreement between Ashraf Ghani (current president) and Abdullah Abdullah (CEO) to reform Afghanistan’s electoral process, President Ashraf Ghani had finally ordered an electoral reforms commission.
The Ghani-Abdullah’s agreement says about electoral system reform:
“[The] President has agreed on the basis of article 1 of the agreement that he will order a commission to reform the electoral system of Afghanistan soon after the establishment of National Unity Government (NUG).”
Members of the special commission will be selected with the consent of president and chief executive, and the cabinet will evaluate the recommendations of the commission and will take measures accordingly. It is worth mentioning that the electoral reforms should be implemented before the next parliamentary election”.
Need of Reform
During the last presidential election, independent election commission was accused of great deal of fraud, even the 100% recount of votes could not solve the dispute, and as a result the tensions between the two (run off) candidates paved the way for international community’s intervention. In a political agreement, both agreed to form a national unity government and to reform election commission of Afghanistan.
Previously, EU that has assisted Afghanistan in the elections has asked Afghan officials to disclose those who managed frauds in the last election. EU also demanded reform in the election process.
Franz-Michael Mellbin, special envoy of EU to Afghanistan has even said that without reform in the election commission of Afghanistan and electoral institutions, he cannot even imagine the next parliamentary election in the country.
Without implementation of the reforms, EU will not support and monitor next election in Afghanistan, Mellbin added.
The concern of international community and Afghan people on the same commission is understandable. Finally, president announced the commission:
“The president of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani announces the electoral reform commission under the chairwomanship of Shukria Barakzai for electoral reforms, strengthening national system, repairing peoples’ trust about governmental institutions, rule of law and preventing electoral violations.”
But these reforms will be in which sections? Change of election commission officials, change of electoral system or both?
Fundamental Reforms in Electoral System
The electoral system of Afghanistan is based on adult franchise vote, which has prevented the expansion and growth of political parties in the country.
When the draft of the present constitution was discussed, the type of political system was the main issue. Some of the participants supported the parliamentary system where political parties could emerge. But another group insisted on presidential system and their choice was implemented. The electoral system of Afghanistan is based on this belief.
The system of adult franchise looks very simple where every voter can cast its vote, but from its implications point of view it is very complicated system that refrain the growth of political parties.
The aforementioned system was approved due to political reasons. After Taliban’s defeat there was no political party other than the previous Jihadi parties. If the electoral system was founded on the basis of political parties, keeping in view their repute they would have won the elections.
Therefore, international community decided to prevent Jihadis rule, they based the electoral system on adult franchise vote. In addition, at the same time they tried to form new political parties. After 2001, hundreds of political parties were registered in the Justice Ministry with international community’s support and with very flexible conditions, but none of them succeeded to gain the public support. Later on, dozens of political parties joined hands, but even then, they could not form an influential political party.
Since then, the international community did not emphasize on electoral system of Afghanistan and finally an essential characteristic of democratic system did not come to existence.
If really there is a will for change in electoral system of Afghanistan, the system should be changed fundamentally. But keeping in view the members of newly formed reform commission are -including their chairwoman- anti-Jihadi parties’ elements, so they will not bring any fundamental change, and it will be referred to Joya Jirga (Grand Council). While the presidential statement says in this regard:
“The reforms in electoral commission of Afghanistan have been part of the need that the people of Afghanistan felt in the 2014 election, so there should be broad changes”
It is worth to mention that the same electoral system was opted for Japan during the US occupation of that country after WWII until 1993, so in Afghanistan too, it cannot be considered randomly.
Constitution and Electoral Changes
Article 109 of the constitution says:
“The recommendation of changes in electoral law cannot be added to the agenda of parliament in its last year”.
According to above article, head of election commission of Afghanistan says change in the electoral system is repugnant to the law. At the same time, Head and members of the commission who were accused of large-scale frauds in the last election, because of the current election law they are not ready to resign from their portfolios before the completion of six-year tenure, the article six of election law says:
“The president will select 9 out of 27 candidates with at least two women for six years”
The agreement of NUG says: “to regain the trust of the people of Afghanistan in the next election, electoral system (Laws and institutions) needs fundamental changes”.
Some are of the opinion that the members of electoral reform commission that have been appointed by the president have no experience and they will not be able to gain any success.
The commission may recommend some technical reforms in the election commission i.e. to distribute electronic ID cards. The new ID cards can prevent electoral frauds, but it is a long-term process and requires the postponement of next parliamentary elections. However, if the election law is not amended, the next 2015 parliamentary election’s results are not guaranteed.