Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, May 25th, 2020

Change Agents: Youth Participation in Afghan National Parliament

Engaging young people in politics is critical to the safeguarding and strengthening of democracy in the country. Afghanistan has an estimated 31.6 million people that about 63.7 percent of them are under 25 years of age, that have a huge potential to bring positive changes in different areas. Thus, justice and democratic legitimacy demand more than a token youth presence in parliament. In addition, the presence of young people in political positions can change attitudes, eroding stereotypes about readiness or fitness to lead, while also encouraging young people to see politics as an arena open to their participation. Debates on youth participation in politics have traditionally focused more on young people’s role as voters rather than on their election to political office. But as with gender equality – where the increased participation of women benefits society as a whole – the presence of young people in elected positions benefits all citizens and not just youth.
Youth Participation as Candidates
Though the youth constitute a high number of the Afghan population, they have been under-represented in the mid and high level of politics in the country. When the Taliban’s regime was toppled by the international community, new opportunities were available for them to study and participate actively in different arenas. As a result, youth candidates constitute a major part of the candidates of the Afghan National Parliament Elections. Political analysts argue that if a considerable number of the youth candidates are voted, they will facilitate a generation transition that could pave the way for further fundamental reforms to strengthen the Afghan nascent democracy and empower national trust building.
Afghan educated youth acknowledge the modern scientific theories and also have not been involved in civil war in the country and can play a more effective and efficient role in the Afghan National Assembly. They can contribute to lessen the ethnic and religious gaps and work to develop Afghanistan and strengthen its new democracy.
Young female Candidates
Female candidates face multiple challenges as women running for public office in a highly conservative society. In addition to ongoing security concerns and public skepticism over the transparency of the entire process, women face widespread discrimination when it comes to political participation.
Traditional mores in Afghanistan are the main barriers against women even working outside the home, let alone running for public office. However, Presence of women candidates is one of the strong points of the forthcoming elections in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan that women face numerous socio-cultural challenges to run for public office, participation of many women candidates increase their chance to be included in the politics and political decision making processes. Though a large number of female candidates may not be voted, but their participation in the electoral process can decrease their marginalization and would help them to be recognized as the political influential figures to be mainstreamed in the society.
In sum, there is an urgent need for action by the Afghan government to address the underrepresentation of the Afghan young people in their membership. It requires Afghan authorities view the issue of youth participation in politics through the lens of youth representation in politics including in parliament. Further, male MPs have always outnumbered their female counterparts in every age group in the previous parliaments; as a result, it requires specific measures to be taken by the government, especially in terms of public awareness to motivate the people to vote to the female candidates for the Afghan National Parliament elections in order to have more female MPs in the next national Parliament.