Upcoming Elections in Afghanistan: Irregularities and concerns

The Afghan Presidential elections are scheduled to be held on the 20th of April 2019. Currently, the country is preparing for parliamentary and district council elections scheduled for 20th October 2018- after a three-and-a-half-year delay. The political landscape remains tumultuous and contentious as the elections are nearing. Reportedly, major concerns revolve around insecurity, voter registration, institutional rifts.

Jamiat-e-Islami party, Junbish-e-Milli Islami, Hizb-e-Islami and Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-eIslami are amongst the core parties that have been voicing their concerns regarding election irregularities. They allege that the government is making deliberate attempts to deprive the people from the right to be informed about all aspects of free and fair elections.

The core concern raised by these parties is over the issue of fake ID’s being used in the elections, they allege that over 50% of registered voters are merely ghost voters- being used to tilt election results. They suggest that the voter registration process must be re-verified and biometric systems should be implemented for upcoming elections.

A political movement called the Grand National Coalition of Afghanistan- led by former Balkh governor Atta Noor- also recently displayed thousands of fake national identity cards and voter stickers. The coalition said that these fake ID cards are proof of widespread fraud in the upcoming elections. On the other hand, a day after political parties displayed alleged fake IDs and books of stickers for voter cards- Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan claimed that about 60 voter register books had gone missing in six provinces- each containing the names of 600 registered voters – hinting that they have either been stolen by thieves or seized by armed opponents.

The head of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan -Tadamichi Yamamoto- has also called on Afghan political parties to support the election process. However, prominent Election watchdogs and observers are of the view that the country’s upcoming parliamentary and next year’s presidential elections are facing serious challenges stemming from electoral fraud and insecurity.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also recently lashed out at government alleging that certain areas- that carry lower support for the current political setup- are being deliberately destabilized so that people are unable to vote in the October elections.

Disagreements have also started to emerge within the Election Commission of Afghanistan over appointments of provincial heads. Some major political parties have closed the offices of the Independent Election Commission in Balkh, Kandahar and Herat provinces over their demands on a transparent election and a change in polling system.

In the span of past few months, several political candidates have also been killed across the country creating further insecurities. President Ghani on his part- has recently issued a decree on elections to prevent any interference in the election process and to ensure the process is held in a safe and transparent environment. The decree ensures government officials and institutions’ impartiality in elections, better security of the electoral process, prevent any disorders and misuse of the electoral process and ensure proper grounds are provided for large numbers of voters to participate in the electoral process.

Afghanistan is about to hold an important round of elections in a month’s time- these elections would set the stage for the upcoming Presidential elections in 2019. It is unlikely that the October elections would be delayed-for now, but political parties are likely to contend the results.