Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

Why Elections Matter for Afghans

Elections matter for many reasons for the Afghan citizens. First, elections are not just elections: In fact, they are part of a vital process in the country. Second, they determine leadership, and also they determine whether to change or continue the current leadership. Third, as the studies show, the good pint about elections is that, even flawed elections, that are very likely in Afghanistan, may have value in institutionalizing electoral integrity, if the coming electoral cycles reinforce key democratic principles. Fourth, elections, as democratic processes, are the only frameworks that can provide a basis for building Conesus among different groups on critical issues including sharing-power.
Electoral period is widely defined as a time of people’s candidate’s selection, campaigning, mobilization and voting, and after that the announcement of the elections’ results. Acceptance of the results is one of the most critical periods in Afghanistan. Decision making in Afghanistan has widely been one sided and most of the people who may were affected by decisions in the past were not consulted by governments or they just were superficially consulted through pre-determined mechanisms. Based on this nature of decision making models of governance systems in the past, people want the decisions to be holistic. They want to see the minimum of their expectations have been met with the electoral mechanism and contrary to the past they can really make a decision and their voices are heard by the relevant authorities.
Circulation of power is an issue that the Afghans are very sensitive about it. Since elections signal a moment in a time in which an old order may be confirmed or may be a new rule replace it. This makes elections turning points in democracy. Afghanistan has experienced several elections since the Taliban government was toppled in 2001. All these elections had overriding outcomes for Afghanistan. First, all them have been received with suspicion by the people. Second, they have continued to be the only legitimate mechanism of power-sharing in the country.
As it is a rule in more established democracies, electoral processes can typically have routinized and be held in a regular, periodic fashion.  Further, Afghanistan could hold referendums to ascertain “the will of the people”. This include changing the electoral mechanism, reforming the constitution and making national decisions on national interest issues. However, we may not develop adhoc models of decision making in the country. For example, it does not look rational if each province is considered as one electoral zone, but we decide to divide a specific province to several electoral zones, without forming a national consensus on it.
In our time, elections are widely held even by competitive authoritarian regimes. According to Levistky and Way, it is necessary the elections be closely evaluated for the ways in which they confer legitimacy on those who control government.
Overall, elections serve four principal functions. They are:
1.             Legitimization: As noted above, the legitimacy of ruling elites is conferred through “free and fair”, electoral processes. Being free of corruption is one of the basic principles of any electoral process. It is an issue that has severely undermined the electoral results in our country.
2.             Exercising accountability: We can make accountable the politicians through electoral processes for providing better security, and improving development.
3.             Choosing representatives. Representation happens in formal ways. Representation in countries like Afghanistan with week social trust and cohesion is of specific importance, because people hardly trust any other people to really care about their needs. As a result, representation in Afghanistan means having access to decision making in an environment that fair distribution of resources and opportunities has a negative historical background.
4.             Exercising voice, aggregating preferences: Electoral processes give meaning to the principles of political equality and popular control in democracy. In a country with a background that neither voicing of all groups of society nor aggregation of all social groups into common social or public choices have been a real concern for the politicians and the governance system, it is natural that people be concerned about ensuring these concepts by the government.
Elections play a critical role in institutionalizing democracy in any country. Most Afghans, assume democracy the best governance system that can ensure their representation in the government. It can ensure legitimacy and accountability of the government. It also ensures their voice to be heard and their views to be integrated into a common social or public choice and the government would be accountable to them in terms of maintaining their security, creating a conducive environment for development and addressing the basic needs in a fair and equal manner.