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Afghan Youth Debates: Ghazni Official Says Ballot-Paper Shortage Not Deal-Breaker

By Abdullah Lami

A local government head in Afghanistan's Ghazni province has praised election officials for their success in maintaining security and minimising fraud on polling day.

Zafar Sharif, the head of Jaghori district, said that while he accepted there had been problems with delivering ballot-papers to more remote polling stations, he had overall been very pleased with the process.

Addressing an IWPR debate held in his district on April 16, Sharif said some 80,000 people had travelled to the 36 polling stations in Jaghori – a mountainous and remote part of Ghazni – to take part in presidential and provincial council elections.

Sharif told students that as soon as the authorities learned the shortage of ballot papers in some areas, they acted and sent additional ballots.

"The only problems on election day were the shortages of ballot-papers at more remote polling stations and the fact that some people were unable to reach these centres," he told the event. "More ballot-papers were sent to some polling voting centres than others, but this was not a significant enough problem to undermine the process."

The IWPR debate was attended by more than 100 local students and other young people, male and female. One audience member, Halima, asked the panel how serious an impact the ballot-paper shortage might have.

Mohammad Rahim Asghari, dean of the privately-run Khatam al-Nabiyyin University, warned that if it were found to have occurred all across Afghanistan, voters would rightly question the legitimacy of the process.

He told the event, "If the problem is found to have been repeated nationwide, then the pillars of the state risk being weakened, because it could increase the mood of distrust between the people and the state. People could lose faith in the principles of democracy."

Audience members then asked the panel a number of questions about the effectiveness of civil society groups in the build-up to the April 5 vote.

Mohammad Hadi Basharat, an activist, said he believed the media in Jaghori had been particularly effective in reporting on the day itself, as well as raising public awareness of the vote beforehand.

"Radio Jaghori, Radio Payam-e Jawanan and five publications active in the district played a positive role in reporting and covering the elections," he said.

Paiman, a student, asked why turnout among women had been stronger than that for men on election day. Mortaza Faizi, a lecturer at the Faiz Mohammad Kateb Institute of Higher Education, said there were a number of reasons why this was the case.

"First, women are very sensitive to the future prospects of their children, and second, most men and youths from Jaghori district live abroad in foreign countries for work,” he said.

Abdullah Lami is a student at Ghazni 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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