Electoral fraud in Afghanistan is a critical concern for candidates, government and the international community. They are warning that corruption in the parliamentary and district council elections risks discrediting the outcome.
Many Afghans think that the political process is predetermined by powerbrokers rather than constituting a real expression of popular will in the country. Unfortunately, the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections only served to strengthen such a perception, marred as they were by widespread allegations of fraud.
Now, as Afghanistan is getting ready to conduct the parliamentary and district council elections such concerns are the main factors behind the current critical electoral issues.
How Afghanistan Can Ensure a successful Election?
Establishing a joint body
This body will include members of the Afghan political parties, Civil Society Organizations and IEC members. It can play an instrumental role in mediating differences between the political parties and the government confidence building. It shall persuade the political parties to peruse their legitimate demands in the framework of the constitution and other relevant laws. They shall prevent any violence and ethnic based campaigning, and promising that they would accept the results of the elections conditioned to be conducted in a fair and free manner.
A monitoring system shall be developed that is acceptable by the political parties and the government. It shall be conducted by the civil society, promoting consensus, establishing mechanisms to track incidents of electoral performance and violence across the country and most importantly through the deployment of electoral observers that all parties trust them. Even right now, there are rumors about buying electoral observers by some candidates and deploying observers that there is no consensus about them among the political parties and government would further exacerbate the electoral conflicts and even post electoral conflicts in the country.
Substantial International presence
The IEC shall ensure the substantial international presence, i.e. United States, EU, other international community members and Afghanistan neighboring countries. This reflects a great degree of international interest in the elections and commitment to a peaceful outcome. The presence of the international community will ensure the legitimacy of the forthcoming elections and can play a vital role to revive the role of IEC as a reliable and trustable institution in charge of electoral processes in Afghanistan.
Public Statements by International Observers
International observers can play a critical role during critical electoral moments in Afghanistan. They shall make public statements encouraging the parties to stick to the electoral process and ensuring that there was no distortion of the public will. If they witness any violations by government or political parties, they shall strongly voice their concerns and take any necessary measures to prevent such violations. As a result, this will prove crucial in reminding the political actors that the international community is watching and is fully engaged in the political process.
Afghanistan electoral challenges have concerned Afghan people, government, political parties and even the international community. As a result, it is time for Afghanistan to develop a mechanism acceptable for the political parties and the government and all parties accept its decisions. If not so, these challenges could jeopardise the tight timelines and derail the elections. It is to the benefit of all political leaders engage constructively to ensure the elections are held on time. And this calls for resilience and persistence by all sides.