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Elections in Afghanistan are Litmus test for the Ghani Government
Gaurav Kumar
2018-09-02
Region : Asia, South Asia, Afghanistan,
Issue : Arms & Trade, Security, Politics,
Political Elections are complex phenomenon and have important role in the functioning of the modern democracy. Systematic and regular elections are core attributes of a vibrant democracy. It has special implication for a region like Afghanistan that has been marred by incessant violence and civil wars for decades. In a highly centralized and concentrated political system like Afghanistan, masses are often left out of the key decision making. Any conceptualization of a stable and prosperous Afghanistan cannot be achieved without including population in electoral and democratic institutions and processes. It also includes the section of population who are at war with the state and its institutions. In Afghanistan, like many other countries, elections are not an end in itself, but a means to achieve and end. In case of it, elections are also litmus test of the legitimacy of the government functioning under tremendous external and internal influence.
Afghanistan's parliamentary and district council elections are scheduled for October 20 of this year. The government and the Independent Election Commission (IEC) are facing twin problem, apart from the ineluctable problems of Afghan elections like fraud, rigging etc.:
First, the public protests against the election commission in some parts of the country are turning out to be a major electoral and political challenge. The mounting dissatisfaction among the masses is visible with people constantly growing pessimistic about elections and its genuine outcome. As protesters across the country are up in arms against some of the tainted candidates, the election commission has warned the government of further delays in the parliamentary elections. In the second week of August supporters of politicians who were barred from contesting election organised protest march across many cities after EC revealed up to 35 candidates would not be able to run for the elections. The protests were organised by Afghanistan’s mainstream political parties including Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan, Hizb-e-Islami, Junbish-i-Milli Islami Afghanistan, Hizb-e-Wahdat and the Grand National Coalition of Afghanistan. The protesters are also dissenting against the President for his reluctance to create a joint commission of government and the political parties to undertake some basic changes in the election system. Considering the level of protests and violence, the commission has asked for effective and comprehensive security for the election process.
On the other hand, powerful warlords and politicians are demanding electoral reforms. Recently, former Governor of Balkh province and head of Jamiat-e-Islami party Atta Mohammad Noor threatened to boycott the election if his demands for reforms are not met with. The lack of transparency and commitment has been a regular feature of elections in Afghanistan. The rising protests had forced President Ashraf Ghani to issue a decree on elections to prevent any interference in the election process and to ensure the process is held in a safe and transparent environment. In 2015, Electoral Reform Commission had submitted two proposals containing multiple recommendations to the National Unity Government for reforming the electoral process. However no substantial action has been taken by the NUG even after nearly three years of deliberation.
Second, the rising level of violence and terrorist attacks by the insurgent forces are a constant challenge to the day to day functioning of the Afghan institutions and its forces. During elections the problem is compounded by the lack of military support and coordination by international community. A suicide attacker killed at least three people on 25 August by blowing itself near the office of Afghanistan's election commission in the eastern city of Jalalabad. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reports, between 1 January and 30 June 2018, UNAMA recorded 341 civilian casualties (117 deaths and 224 injured) from election-related violence, most of which (more than 250 casualties) came from two IED attacks on 22 April and 6 May in Kabul and Khost, respectively . Ashraf Ghani has in April called the insurgent groups particularly the Taliban to take part in the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections in order to be a part of the genuine political process. However the Taliban had rejected the overture on the pretext of Afghanistan being a occupied country. It had also asked the people to boycott the elections.
However, with the announcement of the election dates, and the continuation of the process, the government has set the ball rolling for a new phase in Afghanistan History. If the government along with the international community is able to deliver an election free of violence, corruption and rigging, it will be able to establish its legitimacy, and its commitment for a truly democratic government. If issues of mass rigging, fake electoral identity and violence remain unchecked, it could further erode its legitimacy leading to both political and security instability. The upcoming elections therefore, are a litmus test for the security of the South Asia, and the Taliban and its patron in the neighbour countries would like to upset the process. The government with its limited resources and its own compulsions has to mammoth task to perform in order to bring a new phase in the history of turmoil in Afghanistan.
End Notes
"Afghan Protesters Shutter Kabul's Election Commission." August 14, 2018. https://www.albawaba.com/news/afghan-protesters-shutter-kabuls-election-commission-1173234
Ansar, Massoud. "Parties Threaten More Protests In Absence Of Electoral Reforms." TOLOnews. August 29, 2018. Accessed September 01, 2018.https://www.tolonews.com/elections-2018/parties-threaten-more-protests-absence-electoral-reforms
UNAMA Midyear Update on the Protection Of Civilians In Armed Conflict: 1 January To 30 June 2018 accessed from https://unama.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/unama_poc_midyear_update_2018_15_july_english.pdf
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