Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Deepening Democracy: Election Management and Stability in Afghanistan’s Divided Society

Across Afghanistan, elections have become more frequent and the accepted mechanism of choice for popular expression, choice and change of leaders and political accountability. They are increasingly considered as the path to good governance and getting rid of corrupt leaders. Political transitions tend to be more participatory, peaceful and constitutional, a trend attributed to citizens’ awareness that their votes matter and demand for transparency, greater independence of Electoral Management Bodies, a clear move towards issue-based politics and national ownership of electoral processes.
Despite these progresses, democratization in Afghanistan is a paradox. The democratic experiment remains fragile and susceptible to instability and violent conflict.  What puts the democratic achievements of Afghanistan is systematic corruption in public sector institutions, weak electoral system susceptible to fraud, ethnicity, social divisions and ethnic political parties. These factors strongly impact the pace of democratic progress and make the country vulnerable to political chaos. In a country like Afghanistan social divides and distrust act as an inactive volcano having a huge power to push the country towards ethnic conflicts. Therefore, Afghanistan requires free, fair and peaceful elections. To ensure this, Afghanistan must have mandated institutions able to ensure integrity of the electoral process. The lessons of previous elections of Afghanistan and political crises in other countries, especially the developing countries, show that electoral violence is more likely to occur when the electoral process lacks integrity, when there is a perceived critical departure from the accepted rules that govern the process. As a result, efficient and strong Afghan mechanisms are required to underpin credible elections and transform elections into an asset in the country. For Afghanistan, electoral integrity is necessary to turn elections into instruments for promoting social cohesion and inclusion, creating political legitimacy and effective management of diversity and closing the ethnic gaps. Thus, internal democracy within Afghan political parties is becoming necessary in entrenching democracy and electoral management bodies are increasingly called upon to administer free, fair and transparent electoral processes. In Afghanistan, the Independent Election Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission have a critical role to play in preventing electoral violence and electoral dispute resolution.
As a result, the electoral commission should be accountable to the Afghan citizens and Afghan political parties. It is mandated to take all the necessary measures in terms of allegations of the Grand National Alliance that it has accessed to thousands of fraud Tazkeras or ID papers that maintained the special stickers of the Independent Election Commission. Though, IEC has rejected its involvement in the alleged rigging efforts and has termed it as parties hitched negative propaganda against the election body which has nothing to do with the IEC. However, it is necessary the Independent Election Commission takes the necessary steps to clarify the issue to the nation. And if it is really a false allegation by the political parties to undermine legitimacy of the IEC or confuse the Afghan citizens, the NGA should be referred to the relevant legal institutions.
Free, fair and credible elections are the responsibilities placed on Afghanistan Independent Election Commission. As a result, IEC is responsible for managing the electoral processes and elections that produce results acceptable to candidates and electorate. This entails creating a level playing ground by ensuring all actors adhere to rules. For the IEC to be independent, it requires to be supported by the media, political parties, the civil society, the judiciary and members of the public when it is attacked. On its part IEC should act according to conscience and law. If not so, Afghanistan may face a challenging and dangerous political crisis due to the refusal of the results of the coming elections in the country. And IEC would be the main institution responsible for the consequences of a political conflict based on ethnic identity and the motives of enter ethnic differences, ethnic mobilization and conflict in the country.