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Afghan Youth Debates: Election Campaigns Use Airwaves, Phone and Facebooks

By Sayed Taj Mohammad

Students from Kandahar in southern Afghanistan have questioned whether campaigning by some presidential and provincial council candidates has overstepped the rules set out by the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

The issue came up at an IWPR debate on electoral matters held in Kandahar on March 6. Mohammad Yar, a student at Kandahar University, asked whether candidates were permitted to advertise their Facebook account details and private telephone numbers in their campaign literature.

Ghulam Mohammad Masoumi, director of the Samoon civil society group, replied that candidates were fully entitled to use social media.

“Candidates can use their Facebook accounts to explain their ideas and answer questions from the public," he told the audience. "They can engage with voters, discuss their problems and propose possible solutions," he said.

While the broadcast media were valuable channels for political campaigning, Masoumi said, Kandahar province still had “many areas without access to radio and TV stations, so it's encouraging that people can speak to candidates by mobile phone and ask them about their policies.”

Masoumi went on to explain some of the IEC regulations, such as the requirement to halt all campaigning 48 hours before election day, April 5.

“They [candidates] should also refrain using state resources or hanging campaign posters on government buildings," he added.

Another panellist, Shamsuddin Tanwir of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, recalled that when he was observing the 2009 presidential election in Kandahar, some 3,000 women in the Khakrez district were found to have voted multiple occasions.

“If officials interfere with voting this time, there will be severe consequences," he warned. "Afghans will lose their trust in democracy and in the government."

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.

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