Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, August 7th, 2020

Public Concerns Over Upcoming Presidential Election

The upcoming presidential election is viewed with hope and doubt. Afghans are concerned about lack of transparency and fear that the election will be rigged similar to 2014 presidential election, the final result of which was declared one year after the establishment of the National Unity Government.
Afghanistan left a highly controversial presidential election behind in 2014, which led to power-sharing between President Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah. Afghan citizens were frustrated to a great extent as a result of long-awaited result and harsh rhetoric between Afghan officials, who put the independence of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) under question.
In his recent statement, Abdullah has warned that the country will fall into an “unbearable tragedy” if the problems of 2014 presidential election are repeated in this year’s polls, slated for 28 September.
Earlier, a study by two electoral monitoring organizations pointed out some challenges before the presidential elections which included: lack of interest from the international community towards the electoral process, failure of the IEC to drop fake names from the list of voters, ambiguity about the use of biometric devices in the election, and nature of relations between the IEC and the government.
Moreover, Naeem Ayubzada, head of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, is cited as saying, “The government should halt interference and pave the way for monitoring. No institution is ready to support and monitor the elections.”
Meanwhile, Ahmad Wali Massoud, a presidential candidate, claimed that people had been kept away from key issues around peace and elections. He also said, “They [government officials] are distributing money [to the people] when they visit provinces. They collect stickers and signatures in every corner they go. They ask people to promise. They appoint their favorites who are ready to commit fraud [in the election].”
The budget for conducting election was the main concern, but it has been settled as the government will contribute $90 million and the international community will pay $59 million to elections budget and the Trump administration will provide up to $29 million. Thus, the IEC has confirmed that a budget of $149 million had been approved for the elections. It suggests that the government is highly committed in conducting election as scheduled despite the public statements that presidential election will be delayed and interim government would be established in peace talks reach an agreement.
Overall, there are two main concerns about the presidential election. First, Afghan political figures and grassroots fear that election will not be conducted in a fair and free manner. The recent claims by politicians about the government’s interference in the electoral issues has compounded the public mistrust. It will generate disappointment and will leave people with lack of incentive to participate in the election. Second, people are also worried about the security situation. The Taliban will seek to interrupt the election through violence and militancy. Despite their commitment not to target civilians, as they said in the intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha, they have killed and wounded dozens of civilians in their recent attacks in many provinces, including Kabul.
It is believed that the number of voters will decrease tremendously since the government could not protect their rights and freedoms, alleviate poverty, create jobs, provide public facilities, remove corruption, etc. After all, no single election, whether presidential or parliamentary elections, has been conducted in a fair and free manner.
In other words, although Afghan men and women flocked to ballot boxes in presidential and parliamentary elections, their rights were not protected and elections were not transparent. It is because many corrupt officials were involved in the issue.
To prevent corruption and fraud in the upcoming election, the government has to provide the necessary requirements, mainly biometric devices, as the National Procurement Commission (NPC) said that 39,000 biometric devices were needed. The NPC added that biometric devices and other equipment will cost around 14.14 million Euros.
Furthermore, the international observers have to monitor the process so as to ensure the transparency of the election.
The government has to prevent any interference in the election and IEC and implement Afghan Constitution and Electoral Law. No provinces should be left behind in the election. That is, the government has to ensure security and let all qualified citizens use their suffrage. In short, election is conducted to support democracy and rule of law and safeguard the rights and freedoms of citizens. If election brings no changes in the country and people could not exercise their rights and freedoms, it will carry no significance and people will remain indifferent. Hence, election should bring positive changes in the country.