Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, February 18th, 2019

The Lagging Electoral Preparations


The Lagging Electoral Preparations

Among many shortcomings and failures, Government failed to deliver the electoral reforms and lead the preparations for the upcoming parliamentary and provincial council elections. While there are efforts to speed up electoral reforms and preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections, there are enormous challenges hindering election preparations. The government is now reportedly attempting to take steps to further facilitate the arrangements for holding the upcoming parliamentary and provincial council elections. According to the reports, a number of senior officials including President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah have attended a meeting with the aim to facilitate electoral preparations and speed up the required arrangements. The government has tasked several government agencies with overseeing and coordinating the ongoing preparations.
The government has decided to set up two working teams headed by ministries of finance and interior affairs with the tasks to follow up with security and budget issues of the upcoming elections. Afghanistan’s security council has also asked the security agencies to assess the situation for holding the elections and come up with a comprehensive security plan for the elections. The flurries of activities and meetings to speed up the preparations and follow up the ongoing arrangements has long been expected, but the government has been unable to resolve many key issues related to the elections to pave the ground for smooth preparations for the elections. Though coming late, the efforts to boost the processes of preparations in areas of security and funding are coming as promising moves in the electoral efforts.
Lack of sufficient funding and the growing insecurity across the country are two major challenges ahead of holding the parliamentary and provincial council elections. In both areas the risks are too high, and failure to resolve the challenges could potentially derail the process or cause further delays in holding the elections. The Afghan government needs to persuade the international community to provide the required budget for holding the election. However, being deeply skeptical to the transparency and legitimacy of elections, the international community has so far refused to fund the parliamentary elections. The donor countries have made it clear that they will only provide aid to Afghanistan if the Afghan electoral system is reformed based on the political agreement that led to the formation of the national unity government.
The government of Afghanistan says it will shoulder a share of the election budget and will persuade the international community to support and fund Afghanistan’s elections. However, the government is far from being able to have a commitment from the donor countries for funding the elections. The government has failed in many regards or been so slow to fulfill its pledges in reforming the electoral system, thus failing to raise the required funding for the elections. Designating a government ministry for working on arranging the election budget does not seem to be the right response or solution to the problem. The government needs to demonstrate progresses in implementing the agreement on reforming the country’s electoral system. There will no progresses in many of the key electoral preparations if the Afghan government fails to have the required budget soon.
Security is another key matter for the upcoming elections. With the Taliban naming a hardliner leader to replace Mullah Mansoor, the group will likely further escalate the insurgency by organizing more attacks and targeting electoral workers and voting stations in towns and districts across the country. The legitimacy of the elections is closely related to improvement of security across the country and particularly in southern and eastern provinces, where on one hand voters are intimidated by militants and, on the other hand, chances of electoral frauds are high. The government needs to devise a broad and comprehensive security strategy to safeguard the elections and prevent potential disruptions to the elections by the militant groups. Hopefully, the security agencies have shown in the past that security for elections is something manageable. In previous elections, Afghanistan’s security and defense forces largely foiled Taliban’s attacks and prevent major disruptions to the elections.
Government’s commitment to deliver reforms is the key for success and legitimacy of the upcoming elections. The security required for elections is crucial but manageable. The national unity government needs to be concerned more on its obligations. The biggest threat to viability and legitimacy of the upcoming parliamentary elections is not lack of security or other challenges but lack of resolve of the government to reform the system and ensure soundness and transparency of the elections. The case was the same in previous elections. While Afghanistan’s security agencies managed to provide relatively peaceful environment and the international community supported the processes, many of the elections were marred by frauds and irregularities plunging the country into the brink of a potential crisis.
The government is expected to be able to manage budget and security issues of the upcoming parliamentary elections, but there is no certainty over the success of the electoral reforms which is key for success of the elections. In order for the government to overcome the challenges facing the elections, the leaders of the national unity government need to demonstrate sufficient political will to lead a sound electoral process. This is while there is a bunch of works to be done by the authorities to make preparations for holding the elections. The electoral laws need to be finalized by the parliament as they are going to govern the whole process. The government should support the selection committee to go ahead with picking competent individuals as commissioners of the two electoral bodies.
The government has fallen short of implementing the recommendations of the special electoral reform commission. It needs to redouble efforts to implement the minimal of the recommendations of the electoral reform commission to pave the ground for holding the elections. The ability of the national unity government to demonstrate the required political will to resolve the existing electoral issues will determine the fate of the upcoming parliamentary and provincial council elections.

Abdul Ahad Bahrami is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at ahad.bahrami@gmail.com

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