Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Public Concerns over Electoral Challenges

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Public Concerns over Electoral Challenges

To celebrate democracy, Afghans flock to ballot boxes to cast their votes so that their ballots could prevent bullet and ensure their rights and freedoms, but challenges linger on. Notwithstanding their strong hope for democracy, their rights are violated flagrantly.
Afghans paid heavy sacrifices for democracy and participated in presidential and parliamentary elections despite the life-threatening circumstances. Both men and women sought to use their suffrage regardless of the messages of threat sent by the Taliban militants. They supported the government, constitution, and democratic principles so that they could live a peaceful and prosperous life in the future.
However, militancy did not end and Afghans suffered severely. The Taliban fighters continued targeting civilians, including women and children, and trampled upon their rights in the worst possible way. That is, their dreams for democracy did not come true and they fell victim to the Taliban’s terrorist attacks and suicide bombings.
With the start of the upcoming presidential elections, the Taliban militants have intensified their offensives against combatants and non-combatants. In turn, dozens of people, including women and children, were killed in a “Taliban roadside bomb” on Herat-Kandahar highway on Wednesday – which Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesperson for the Afghan presidency, confirmed that all victims were “civilians” adding that the bomb was “planted by Taliban”.
The blast came one day after the United Nations said civilians were being killed and wounded at a “shocking” level in the conflict in Afghanistan despite the efforts to end the 18-year war in the country.
There are many challenges before the upcoming presidential elections: First, since the Taliban are against elections, they are most likely to intensify their indiscriminate attacks so as to spread fear and threaten Afghan citizens to reduce the number of voters in the elections.
Second, the mistrust between Afghan nation and political officials continue. For example, Afghan candidates make mouth-watering promises during their presidential elections, but do not fulfill them after being elected as president. Since 2014 elections, neither security issues nor poverty or unemployment has been tackled. A large number of civilians were killed, their rights and freedoms violated, and their life conditions worsened. Now it is too difficult to earn the public trust.
Third, mistrust has been compounded by electoral rigging. Even officials and candidates fear electoral rigging let alone the ordinary citizens. Manipulating the result of election is a real nightmare for voters. Hence, some candidates seek to be elected as president at the cost of electoral rigging and violation of national laws and citizens’ rights – which is against democratic principles.
Fourth, Afghan people have lost their trust in democracy as a result of repeated violation of Afghan Constitution as well as lawlessness. The bulk of constitution’s items were violated by officials within the government’s machinery, including judges and the police, who are considered law-enforcers.
Considering all the aforementioned facts, the number of participants in the upcoming elections is likely to be low. Some argue that they do not want to risk their lives in return for nothing.
However, Afghans are still thirsty for peaceful life. There are still many men and women who are decided to cast their votes at all costs. Despite all the challenges, they hold out their hope for democracy and smooth implementation of law. They believe that their votes will bring about positive changes to their country and nation. A number of Afghans deem their participation in the polls as their national and religious obligation.
To earn the public trust and increase the number of voters in the elections, three steps have to be taken: First, the government has to ensure the life of voters and seek to counteract the Taliban’s attacks. Tight security measures should be taken across the country from now on, mainly in restive provinces.
Second, the government should take all the required measures to ensure that electoral rigging would not take place or at least will be at a minimum level. The number of national and international observers should be increased in polling centers.
Third, the presidential candidates must not promise beyond their abilities. They have to say what they can and will do for the nation.
Fourth, efforts for peace talks should be stepped up and the Taliban should be pressured to declare ceasefire and reduce their violence against civilians. 
What Afghan nation expects from the upcoming costly elections is that citizens should be able to live a peaceful and prosperous life and the rights and freedoms of each individual has to be respected and protected. Indeed, if a candidate ensures me a job and a safe life, why should I not vote in his favor?  It is what every Afghan wants.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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