The government, after a number of consultative meetings with some candidates, representatives of candidates, political parties and civil societies, appointed technical committee to reform the electoral law improve the electoral commissions.
The committee which included representatives of political parties, representatives of candidates and other related organs, agreed on and organized the final draft of amendment in the law of commission. Last week, on 12th of February 2019, the cabinet sanctioned the draft and was later signed by the president of Afghanistan.
At the same time, based on a decree of the president Ashraf Ghani, all electoral officials were dismissed and banned from leaving the country by the attorney general.
The electoral system of Afghanistan, disposition of amendments in the electoral law, hopes for transparency in the electoral system and worries about the implementation of the reforms are issues that are discussed here.
The electoral system of Afghanistan
Based on the previous electoral law of Afghanistan, the method of elections in the country was Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV). This system is applied in countries where elections are newly introduced. According to the system, every voter has the right to use only one vote and the vote is transferable. This means that the vote cannot be transferred to other candidates or political parties. For instance, if there are a specific number of chairs available in elections, those candidates who obtain the highest number of votes, are announced the winners of elections.
After the fall of the Taliban regime, other than Jahadi parties, there was no party who could compete in elections. Therefore, based on political reasons, it was perceived that the best system for the elections in Afghanistan is Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV). If this system was not chosen for the elections, the Jihadi parties would have been the winners of the elections.
The implementation of SNTV electoral system after the fall of the Taliban regime and with the establishment of new government, has led the political parties not to grow and develop.
Amendment in the electoral law
After the presidential elections in 2014, the unity government agreed to reform the election commission. However, the government wasn’t able to amend the foundations of the electoral system. Even after three years of delay, the parliamentary elections were poorly held and still, the final results of some provinces are not announced, which indicate the weakness of the commission.
The reforms in the electoral law were one of the promises of the Unity government, a demand of political parties, supervisory and international organs. Thus, a committee was appointed to amend the electoral law.
In the electoral law of Afghanistan, articles that are amended include: article eleven, twelve thirteen, fourteen, section 3 of article sixteen, article nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, section 1 of article thirty-one, article thirty-two, thirty-three, forty-one, section 2 of article sixty-one, section 2 of article sixty-four, section 2 and 3 of article seventy-four, seventy-nine, part two of section 1, and section 6 of article eighty-three, article eighty-five, eighty-nine, ninety-three, section four and five of article ninety-four, and section 1 of article one-hundred and eight. Here, we discuss a few issues:
Conversion from SNTV electoral system to MDR system: the Multi-Dimensional Representation (MDR) system is a fragment of proportional governments. In MDR, three types of lists of candidates are prepared: (list of independent candidates, list of united political parties and list of political parties). In this system, votes can be transferred to one another within the list. The supporters of MDR system say that the system enables fair competition for candidates and participation and fair competition for political parties.
The second article of president Ghani’s decree regarding the amendment of electoral system says “Elections in future will be held according to MDR system. The independent election commission, with the assistance of political parties and civil societies, should prepare a plan which include the amendment of the electoral law, within a month and present it to the cabinet for approval”.
Elimination of selection committee: Previously, the selection committee was responsible to shortlist and introduce 21 candidates to the president who had the highest standards for membership in the commission. The president, after considering national and gender compositions, used to choose the members of election commission.
After the reforms in law of elections, the selection committee has been eliminated. Based on the new law, in order to appoint the members of the commission, electoral complaints commission, and the secretariat of commissions, political parties which are registered with the ministry of Justice will introduce one person, and civil societies will introduce 15 members, among whom, 5 should be female, for the selection process.
According to the law, if one of the candidates for presidential elections is the president himself, then every candidate votes fourteen members (7 for elections commission, 5 for complaints commission, and two for the Secretariat of the commission). Among all the members who obtained the highest votes, the president, according to the requirements, will choose seven candidates, for the first stage. Among these chosen candidates, two of them must be female. They will be appointed according to the following order:
- Four members for 5 years
- Three members for 3 years
Recruitment of permanent employees: Permanent members of Secretariat and provincial offices will be hired according to the joint procedures sanctioned by the independent election commission and the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission.
Electoral complaints commission: The complaints commission has 5 members. According to the new law, in order to bring transparency and reach the criticisms and complaints, the government, with the agreement of the U.N., can hire international experts as members of the complaints commission, without giving them the right to voting.
Usage of electronic system: According to the new law, in order to have transparent elections, the commission is responsible to use electronic system and biometric technology in all the activities of the commission, including registration process and for recognition of voters.
In addition, the commission is responsible to appoint international experts for technical support and evaluation of electronic systems before the usage.
Overall, after an insight to the history of elections, the electoral system of Afghanistan needed reform and amendment. Although the government acted a little late, but apparently, it is a good effort for improvement and have increased hopes for transparency in electoral process.
Although the government, with the agreement of political parties and representatives of candidates and other organs, amended the electoral law of Afghanistan and the president approved the new law, but there are still concerns regarding the implementation of the new law. Since only six months are remaining for the upcoming presidential election, and on the other hand, the commencement of the presidential election process faced plenty of changes, it is certain that the changes will affect the elections of 1398.
According to the new law, the voters should be registered by biometric machines in order to have transparent election. However, the failed experience of the usage of biometric equipment is another issue that raises people’s concerns about the next electoral process.
Besides all the mentioned issues, the schedule of elections is connected to the peace talks between the Taliban and the United States. Zalmai Khalilzad, in his recent statement pointed this issue and said that, in case of peace agreement with the Taliban, the presidential elections will be delayed.
According to some analysts, the recent amendment in the electoral law of Afghanistan was a sort of pressure on the Taliban and the U.S. for the recent negotiations. However, since the government cannot hold the elections without the financial support of Internationals, it is expected that the presidential election will not be conducted on February 18, 2020 but will be delayed for a few months.