Concerns Continue over Afghanistan’s Upcoming Elections

Candidates and analysts alike are warning that corruption in the run-up to October’s parliamentary and district council elections risks discrediting the final outcome.

Many Afghans continued to believe that the political process is predetermined by powerbrokers rather than constituting a real expression of popular will. The 2014 presidential and provincial council elections only served to reinforce that view, marred as they were by widespread allegations of fraud.

In one high-profile incident, 2014, then-director of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) Ziaulhaq Amarkhail resigned after a recorded telephone conversation was released which apparently showed him discussing skewing the vote in favour of presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani.

These elections have been accompanied by their own swathe of concerns, including practical issues such as a lack of voter registration centres and delays in rolling out registration processes.

Fazil Ahmad Manavi, a former IEC director, said that a complete list of candidates had yet to be published, despite an announcement that it was scheduled for June 26.

There were further problems, he continued. There were no candidates at all in 37 districts, as well as a complete lack of voter registration centres in certain areas.

Political analyst Wahid Muzhda said that even the official number of registered voters was not credible.

“The government claims that more than seven million voters have registered their names at voter registration centres, but I don’t believe that the number can be this high because we have witnessed serious levels of corruption, [for instance] with a single ID card was registered at several centres,” he said.

With corruption a foregone conclusion, he continued,. “The upcoming parliament will not solve the public’s problems.

“It seems that some will obtain their seats in parliament through the misuse of power, and those who get there this way can’t help the public because they have already committed dozens of crimes to enter parliament. They will be more dangerous to people.”  

Candidates are themselves concerned about fraud, including Fawzia Naseryar, a veteran of two previous terms in parliament who is running again in October. She said that the level of corruption she had witnessed so far did not bode well for the legitimacy of any future government.

“It is obvious even now that there has been a lot of fraud in various areas,” she said. “Fake ID cards were registered. In Paktia province, photos of foreign celebrities were used to disturbed [fake] ID cards which were then registered at voter registration centres. In the same province, voter registration logbooks have been filled in at private houses with fingerprints from a single person.”

Some argue that fresh faces are needed to restore ordinary Afghan’s faith in the possibility of political change.

Rahmatullah Bezhanpoor, another political analyst, said that the current parliament had failed to bring any positive change. That meant that people who vote for sitting candidates were actually helping perpetuate a corrupt system, he continued.

He concluded, “The parliamentary and district council elections will be pointless, and the result will not only not be trusted by the public but will also cause many other challenges.”

Nik Mohammad, a 45-year-old street hawker, said he would not even consider voting for a veteran politician.

“If current members of parliament nominate themselves again, I will not vote for them because in they misused their positions in previous years to fill their pockets. They received bribes from different minsters, they secured projects and appointed their family members to senior government posts. So I will not vote for them and I encourage my fellow countrymen not to support them either.”

IEC commissioner Sayed Hafizullah Hashimi said that this approach was unwarranted.

“Everyone, according to the law, has the right to stand for election, and the IEC cannot drop them without a valid reason,” he said. “If anyone has a problem with a candidate, they can register their complaints with the electoral complaints commission for consideration.”

Hashimi said that the reason for the delay in releasing the full candidate list was the late submission of documents from the provinces. Having received them five days after the June 22 deadline, the IEC was still processing them and would announce the list in due course.