Afghan Youth Debates: Helmand Election Officers Confident
Election officers have expressed confidence about their preparations for voting in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan next April.
Shafiqullah Safi, provincial spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC), told an audience of students at a recent IWPR-run debate about two practical improvements designed to ensure that the 2014 presidential and provincial elections were fair. To reduce opportunities for fraud, voters will be told which polling station they need to go to, and the ink used to mark people’s fingers to stop them voting again will no longer wash off.
“In previous elections, people could obtain voting cards in one district and to cast their ballot anywhere within the province. Now, voting registration cards have written on them exactly where you can vote," Safi said. "The ink used previously wasn’t of good quality, but this time round, it will make a permanent mark on voters’ fingers lasting up to a week. It won’t be possible to wipe it off using chemicals.”
Another panelist in the debate, Professor Abdul Manaf Fardin, a psychology professor at Helmand province’s university, was upbeat about the chances of a successful ballot next April.
“If the IEC really remains impartial and does not support a specific candidate, then I think there's a good chance Helmand will hold transparent elections,” he said. “No country in the world – not even longstanding democracies – can claim to have 100 per cent transparent elections. But the level of fraud should not reach a point where it affects the overall credibility and legitimacy of the process.”
Mohammad Wali Zirak is a university student in Helmand.
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.