Afghan Youth Debates: Little Trust in Election Body
Nine out of ten voters in Afghanistan's Kunduz province have no confidence in either their government or the Independent Election Commission (IEC), an IWPR debate has heard.
The discussion event took place at Kunduz University on December 21, and was attended by more than 100 students.
Zabihullah Sherzad, a spokesman for the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), said a recent poll had revealed widespread public mistrust of officials in the build-up to presidential and provincial elections scheduled for April 5.
Poor security and a shortage of polling centres were among the key issues highlighted by the survey. Corruption and fraud were also seen a major concern, with many respondents believing their vote would have little or no impact on the result.
"We conducted an opinion poll in Kunduz province some time ago," Sherzad said. "Ninety per cent of respondents were discontented with the government and with the election commission."
Palwasha Fazli, head of training and capacity building at the IEC, told students she agreed that it was impossible to entirely rule out election fraud since a number of districts in Kunduz province were under the control of insurgent groups.
But she urged those present to recognise the enormous efforts being made to improve security and minimise the risk of corruption. The IEC was doing its utmost to prevent even minor infringements of the process, she said.
"First of all, security is very important," she told the students. "Security must be ensured and the commission is very serious about this.”
For example, she said, “People who come to register and obtain voting cards must present their identity cards. If anyone doesn’t have an identity card, there are 13 other documents that can be shown, including student cards and marriage certificates, to prove they are Afghan."
Last year FEFA, an independent watchdog working to promote democracy in Afghanistan, announced it would be appointing 10,000 observers to help monitor the presidential and provincial council elections. The organisation said it had secured 3.8 million US dollars in funding from the embassies of Canada, Denmark, Germany and the UK to carry out the work.
Muzhda Zharf Yusufzai is a student at Kunduz 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.