Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, May 27th, 2018

IEC Should Reconsider Conditions for Candidates’ Registration

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IEC Should Reconsider  Conditions for Candidates’ Registration

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) decision to set conditions for nominees in the upcoming parliamentary and district level general elections to submit voters’ IDs along with their application to nominate for either parliament or district council seats has created space and opportunities for illegal activities on the part of some potential candidates. IEC requires a nominee for parliament to submit one thousand and a nominee for district council to submit one hundred attested Tazkira or Afghan National identity cards (Afghan IDs).The illegal practices include purchase of Afghan IDs by certain candidates from vulnerable voters for Afs.2000 to Afs5000, and constitution of teams manned by male and female workers by candidates to encourage families and individual voters to accept money for their votes. In addition, local eyewitnesses in less stable regions such as Kunduz province, have reported about influential, existing members of parliament cracking in IEC recruitment process and have introduced scores of people of their own kinshipfor recruitment by the commission. These IEC personnel will be assigned at ballot stations across the province, which can be a potential for rigged and unfair elections results. Possibilities of these events repeating themselves across the country loom large.
In the face of ongoing threats to voters from insurgents and various other terrorist groups, who have already issued warnings to, and threatened people not to participate in the upcoming elections, pressure from candidates to obtain voters’ Afghan IDs by offering them money has added to complications in the whole electoral process. Ordinary masses are starting to lose faith and confidence in the ongoing electoral process. Local people in Baghlan and Kunduz provinces say that Taliban have imposed Afs.50,000/-  in addition to other punishment for those who go to ballot stations and cast their votes in the upcoming elections. Afghan social and political landscape continues to evolve in an unorthodox shape. People in power and privilege pull out ladder behind them once they reach certain success heights, and leave the masses’ miserable conditions unchanged. They continue to exploit opportunities and power – given to them by the very people who voted them – to suit self-interest. Under such draconian conditions, ordinary masses need support and leveled playing fields to exercise their right to vote under free and fair conditions in the upcoming elections. Government and IEC should take heed of ongoing blatant and explicit violations of rules by certain candidates. Buying Afghan IDs from ordinary, vulnerable voters is equivalent of committing serious fraud and usurping the very basic rights of the people to vote.
Given the present security situation of the country, people in many provinces cannot exercise their right to vote. For example in Kunduz province, the latest information about number of voters who registered themselves hardly reaches eight thousands while the number of potential candidates, who have unofficially started their election campaign, crosses the one hundred mark already! Kunduz city is besieged by insurgents, and many big centers of populations are under direct Taliban rule. People who live in main Kunduz city and to some extent, those who live in district centers across the province can go to vote. Majority of people who live in countryside cannot go to vote. To implement IEC rules in Kunduz, the number of voters who are registered – about eight thousands by the time I wrote this article – can suffice eight candidates only, while total number of parliament members assigned from Kunduz is nine. This situation exacerbates the struggle by candidates to look for Afghan IDs more aggressively. Competition among candidates will increase, which would mean, offering more money and other privileges to voters in order to get their Afghan IDs. This very phenomenon of buying Afghan IDs by candidates evaporates legitimacy of elections right from the beginning. Those who have money will be privileged to participate in elections – no matter what their agendas would be – and those without money – no matter how hard they would like to work for their people and constituency – will not be able to nominate.Voters will be deprived of their rights to vote for their legitimate candidates. Ongoing economic woes of the people make them vulnerable to accept money. The notion that even though voters take money in exchange for their Afghan IDs from certain candidates, they can decide differently when voting at ballot boxes. This is not true in the context of Afghanistan. Afghan tradition and customs obliges people to adhere to their commitment once they take money from certain candidates. This is traditional and cannot be changed. Therefore, intervention from government and IEC is required at this critical moment.
It is undeniable fact that money always plays important role in elections around the world. Therefore, judicial and governmental rules and regulations are put in place to check and balance the effect of these rules. Countries with relative stability and security can easily implement those rules and regulations, but in the case of Afghanistan, where institutions are young, implementation of such rules and regulations to effect change in the field is not possible. In such circumstances, IEC and government should check and balance the outcome of their policies and take immediate and remedial steps in the event a drawback appears in electoral process. It will be sensible for IEC to retract from its decision, and abrogate conditions for candidates to submit one thousand and one hundred attested Afghan IDs to nominate for parliament and district councils. The steps to attest Afghan IDs anew, stick a strip on it, bearing serial number which is tagged to individuals’ specifications are good enough and – if done well and implemented throughout the electoral process – can drastically reduce fraud and avoid a rigged elections. Instead of making the electoral process more cumbersome and difficult to handle, it is better to keep the rules simple and controllable, and focus on outcomeby putting more efforts to make electoral process a success story. It is now time for IEC to lean hard on this and to abrogate these conditions the soonest the better. At this point in time, the very visible impacts of these conditions are to limit the number of candidates applying for nomination, but the damage it is making far more exceeds the perceived benefits. The objective to limit the number of candidates can be self-achieved by cumbersome and expensive campaign process required for a candidate to undertake after nomination. IEC should not become a factor in this.

The author is the emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mg.sahibbzada.ceo@kainaatgroup.af

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