Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Concerns Regarding Parliamentary Elections

The ambiguities and concerns regarding Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections persist as the date for the elections has already been announced. It was a couple of weeks ago when the Independent Elections Commission (IEC) announced that elections would be held on October 15, 2016 (which was to be held in June last year), provided that the government provides necessary support and assistance.
One of the major concerns is the election reforms that were promised but have not been introduced so far. In the presidential election there were serious allegations of fraud and inconsistencies, which ultimately resulted in conflicts between President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah. After various discussions and assistance from the US, both agreed to form National Unity Government (NUG) and bring about necessary reforms in electoral institutions, their roles and responsibilities and at the same time in the overall process before the parliamentary elections. However, no major work has been done in that regard.
One of the reasons is basically the lack of attention and considerations that are devoted to the task. Over-burdening itself with other issues, NUG has not been able to spare time for concentrating on electoral reforms. The issues of insecurity and the reconciliation process with Taliban have dominated the socio-political environment and NUG has not been able to come out of this quagmire.
On the other hand, there is no consensus regarding the shortcomings in the election institutions and processes. It is only feasible to suggest reforms when the real issues are identified and agreed upon. There seems to be great differences in the opinion of the president and the CEO in this regard. Both consider different issues as the top priority. With such a scenario in hand, it is really a Herculean task to bring about necessary reforms before October, 2016.
CEO Abdullah’s team seems to question even the legitimacy of election institutions. Javid Faisal, CEO’s spokesman had said, “The current election commission has no legitimacy because it was their weak management of the previous election that brought us on the brink of chaos. Electoral reforms are a precondition to any election and that includes changes to the commission.” This means that this team would only consider other reforms when there are marked changes in IEC and even in Independent Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC).
It is important to see whether president Ghani would suggest reforms keeping the same commissions intact or he would suggest for bringing about necessary changes in these institutions and then discuss the processes, roles and responsibilities. And, vital would be to reaction of CEO Abdullah in this regard.
Another major conflict or stalemate would definitely put pressure to change the date of the elections once again and raise questions about the legitimacy of the current political system as a whole.
There are also questions about what the actual issues are and what the practical possibilities are to control fraud and manipulation. If both the suggestions from the CEO and President are considered as biased (as they both have their political considerations), is there a possibility that any independent body suggests the best options? And, practically speaking is there any such body and is it acceptable for both the teams? It is difficult to answer these questions and thus show that there are real difficulties and hurdles before the nation reaches to parliamentary elections (if they are ever held).
Apart from these issues, the real challenge is security, as well. Currently, the country has seen a rise in insecurity with the deadly attacks of Taliban insurgents in the capital Kabul. There have been preparations regarding negotiations with Taliban but it is important to see how the process proceeds. If there is not agreement regarding the cease-fire till October, there will be severe security challenges. Insecurity will, therefore, not only discourage the people to cast their votes but will also encourage lack of transparency and increase in the chances of fraud.  
It is only possible to make the parliamentary elections a reality and success it has to be understood by everyone that one of the most dominating attributes of democracy is the process of election. If free and transparent elections continue democracy prospers. True elections let the public govern themselves; therefore, in a democratic state government is not anything beyond the General Will. Therefore, for Afghanistan’s political survival and its journey towards a democratic country, it is vital that the parliamentary elections are held on time, without fraud and manipulation and with maximum security arrangements so that most of the people who desire to cast their votes are able to do so.
In short, to have a fruitful tree of democracy, we need to water it continuously with elections, safeguard it from the parasites of corruption, fertilize it with freedom of expression and above all avoid deforestation by discontinuation and delays. Only then we would be able to guarantee political stability and continue our journey towards a true democracy.