Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghan Youth Debates: Concern Over Election Run-Off

Journalists and community leaders in the Paghman district of Kabul province have argued that fewer voters are likely to take part in the second round of the Afghan presidential election.

Al-Haj Mohammad Khan Arabzada, deputy chairman of the district's council, said a number of logistical issues which had hampered the success of the initial ballot were bound to discourage people from voting again.

Appearing as a panellist at a debate organised by IWPR on May 8, Arabzade claimed that failure to supply sufficient ballot papers to polling stations, coupled with continued allegations of fraud, would inevitably cause some to lose confidence in the process.

He urged the government to address the problems that emerged in the April 5 ballot and ensure that the second round, which has since been officially scheduled for June 14, was trouble-free.

"Rigging the vote, shortages of ballot papers in some polling centres, and [official] collusion behind the scenes have all led to disappointment in the process," Arabzada said. "I don't think people will participate in the second round with the same enthusiasm as in the first. I hope that the problems experienced in the first round will be resolved soon and that this transition of power takes place peacefully."

Hafizullah Barakzai, chairman of the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association, who also spoke at the debate, agreed that voter apathy might be a problem and urged his audience to commit once again to taking part.

"Our contact with the public indicates they are becoming less interested [in the election] for a number of reasons,” he said. “But I ask everyone to vote again and help determine their own – and this country's – destiny."

Hajji Qadir, the district government chief in Paghman, criticised the Independent Election Commission (IEC) for failing to stamp out corruption. He also called on election officials to speed up the count after the second round.

"The problems in the first round included security threats, a shortage of ballot papers, and attempts by powerful individuals in some provinces to interfere in the vote," Qadir said. "There was also a lack of professional staff at the IEC."

He added, "The government must ensure transparency in the second round and it must announce the results without a significant delay".

Ezatullah, a resident of Paghman, asked the panellists whether they believed there was now a risk that a second vote could split Afghanistan along ethnic lines.

Of the two candidates competing in the run-off, Abdullah Abdullah's support-base is seen as being predominantly Tajik and Hazara, whereas Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is seen as the preferred choice for Pashtuns.

Qadir replied, "Although I think this issue has become less significant, it does persist. It is the people's duty to rescue themselves from this calamity. They must consider their vote a religious obligation and they must cast it with thought and precision."

Enayatullah Omari is a student at Kabul 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.