Afghan Youth Debates: Candidates Urged to Run Positive Campaigns
Voters in the southeastern Afghan province of Khost have urged presidential candidates to run positive, policy-driven campaigns and to ignore the temptation to vilify opponents.
Students and activists alike stressed that they would far rather see constructive debate among those standing rather than cheap political point-scoring.
During an IWPR-backed debate in Khost city on February 13, one student warned that "if candidates choose to run negative campaigns, it will hinder the electoral process and create an atmosphere of distrust and hostility between different ethnic groups in the country".
The event took place in Khost city on February 13 and was attended by government officials, civil society activists and more than 100 students. The debate focused on what voters could expect to hear from candidates as the country prepares to head to the polls to elect a new president on April 5.
Azizullah Zaland, a civil society activist, warned candidates not to resort to insulting or demeaning those running against them. He also urged voters to think hard about which candidate they should support.
"Every candidate has the right to talk about himself but he should refrain from insulting others," he told students. An effective campaign should also underscore the significance of the ballot and motivate the public to take part, he said.
Mobarez Mohammad Zadran, spokesman for the governor of Khost province, assured the audience that Afghanistan was capable of holding free and fair elections. Lessons had been learnt from the petty squabbling of the past, he said.
"We have instructed all relevant agencies and security bodies to take action against any illegal behaviour," he said. He said the level "political acuity" was far higher among the current 11 candidates than it was in past polls.
Mahbuba, another debate participant, disagreed, saying, "There are many candidates who know very little about election law and who may well break the rules. The election commission should provide greater public awareness and organise workshops for the candidates."
Rahim Gul Nayel is a student at Khost University and an IWPR trainee.
This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.