Afghan Youth Debates: Fears of Ballot-Rigging and Intimidation
Voters in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan have expressed fears that some of the candidates in the April 2014 presidential and provincial elections might engage in vote-rigging and outright intimidation.
In an IWPR-backed debate held on December 16 at a guesthouse belonging to the Jalalabad city government, some of the students in the audience questioned whether enough checks were in place to prevent the poll outcome being fixed.
The last election held in 2009 was marred by extensive fraud, and the Afghan Independent Election Commission (AIEC) is anxious to allay fears of a repeat next April.
Students at the event, which was attended by Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, spokesman for Nangarhar's provincial governor, as well as local AIEC representative Atiqullah Sharar, pointed out that candidates had used violence as a means of intimidating voters in the past.
Abdulzai insisted that tight security measures were now in place, and anyone caught committing fraud would be arrested. Sharar said the AIEC would press for prosecutions in such cases, and expressed confidence that the forthcoming elections would be more transparent than past polls.
Zabihullah Ghazi is an IWPR-trained reporter in Nangarhar.
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.