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

Afghan Youth Debates: Election Body Must Heed Voters' Views

Afghan community elders and local government officials in the Farza district of Kabul province have launched a stinging attack on the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Speaking at an IWPR debate held in the district on May 29, community leaders condemned IEC officials for failing to address what they saw as serious shortcomings in the first round of Afghanistan's presidential election.

Participants highlighted three main areas which they felt contributed to voter disappointment on the day of the April 5 poll. First, they claimed that polling stations for men and women were placed too close together – a sensitive issue in a country where the sexes rarely mix. Second, they said that polling stations were often no more than tents erected in open fields exposed to rain and snow; and third, some were too far away for voters to reach.

Addressing more than 80 undergraduates attending the event, Dadgul Faqirzada, chairman of the community council in Farza, said, "The IEC did not consult or cooperate with us at all in the first round. The commission implemented the entire process according to its own will. We, the people of Farza, had many ideas – we suggested creating more polling stations and recruiting observers from among people in Farza, but the commission did not accept any of this."

Gul Ahmad Faqiryar, a senior official in Farza district, agreed with Faqirzada and stressed the IEC's failure to consult with local officials. He urged the commission not to repeat the same mistakes in the second round, due to be held on June 14.

"Remote polling stations and the fact they were sometimes set up in open fields were among the problems we saw," he said. He added, without giving examples, that "IEC employees’ inappropriate treatment of voters" had also been an issue.

Zalmay Hotak, a social sciences lecturer at Kabul University, went on to emphasise to undergraduates that Afghanistan was very much a newcomer to the democratic process, and that elections would inevitably face logistical problems.

He too called on the IEC to respect people’s views and urged all eligible voters not to turn their backs on the poll. "The mistakes in the first round of the elections were a lesson to us,” he said. “They must not be repeated.”

No spokesman from the IEC was able to attend the debate.

Enayatollah 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.

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