Afghan Youth Debates: Students Quiz Officials on Election Basics

Students from Kandahar University used an IWPR debate to question government officials on Afghanistan's electoral laws.

The undergraduates at the January 28 event sought answers to a range of queries such as why the voting age is 18 and why provincial council candidates do not need to have a university degree.

One audience member, Khalid, asked why the Kandahar provincial chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), the body set up to administer the April 5 polls, had been appointed from another part of Afghanistan.

Daud Zemarai, a civil society activist, agreed that it would have been more appropriate to recruit someone from Kandahar, but added that it was essential to pick the best candidate. "To some extent, the decision was made to help prevent fraud," he said.

Erfan Zia, provincial spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, was asked why only people over the age of 18 are entitled to vote.

"This threshold is set because at that age, a person is no longer considered a minor," he told the students.

Another student, Ahmad Bahir, questioned the panel about why Afghanistan’s electoral law requires provincial council candidates only to have completed high school, not university.

"Why is it limited to a high school qualification?" he asked.

Zia replied that "the standard has been kept fairly low as the level of education in Afghanistan is poor”.

"This way, individuals in all areas will be able to stand as representatives for their districts. However, as the level of education in the country increases, the standards required to become a councillor will increase, too," he said.

Sayed Taj Mohammad is a student at Kandahar 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.