Afghan Youth Debates: Ensuring Legitimate Government
Afghan civil society activists say a successful presidential election in April will be critical to the legitimacy of the next government.
Speaking at a debate which IWPR held at Bakhtar University in the capital Kabul, Zekria Barakzai, director of Afghanistan Democracy Watch, told students that a poor turnout at the polls would undermine the authority of Hamed Karzai's successor as president, which could further destabilise the country.
“The 2014 elections will be the most significant event in Afghanistan’s modern history,” he said. "Citizens must take part in the political process in order to give the government the legitimacy it needs."
Afghanistan will head to the polls in April year as President Karzai steps down following his second five-year term in office. Many commentators fear the voting will be marred by an escalation in violence as well as widespread fraud.
"As international forces leave Afghanistan, foreign powers will no longer have control over the country. There will be a new president for a new future, and this is very important,” Barakzai said. "The person we elect will be responsible for shaping the destiny of this country."
Hussain Saramat, a civil society activist, told the debate of the importance of political parties in a democratic society, and urged party leaders not to ignore grassroots opinion.
“The legitimacy of government comes from popular vote," Saramat said. "The happier a society is with the government of the day, the greater the legitimacy it will enjoy."
Another speaker, Professor Taraki, reiterated the need for a strong turnout.
“In a democratic system, a single ballot can make the difference between success and failure for a candidate. A single ballot can change the balance of power,” he said. "If we don’t take part in the election, we risk seeing a weak government, and it is we voters who will pay the price."
Mohammad Faisal Nawid is a student at Kabul University.
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.