Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Afghan Youth Debates: In Herat, Concerns About Second-Round Vote
Academics and activists in the western province of Herat are split over whether Afghanistan is capable of repeating the success of the first-round presidential election when it comes to a run-off ballot.
A number of political analysts have questioned the timing of the vote, which is now likely to take place in mid-June, given that the Taleban's spring offensive which began this week will pose a major security threat.
Speaking at an IWPR debate held in Herat on May 11, Fawad Ahmadi, director of the Kabul-based Ariana TV, said he believed turnout would be significantly lower in the second round.
He highlighted the view that allegations of fraud in April 5 poll cast doubt over the government's ability to hold transparent elections. Confidence in the electoral process and in the security arrangements for it was critical to success, he argued.
"The technical problems in the first round, especially the shortage of ballot papers, disappointed many people," Ahmadi told the event. "Some even burned their voting cards. The likelihood of fraud in the second round and a lack of public confidence in its transparency are all factors that could result in a reduction in the numbers of voters."
The IWPR debate took place at Herat University and included guest speakers Nader Parwana, the cultural director of Ariana TV, Ali Fasihi, a civil society activist, and Ahmad Ghani Khesrawi, a lecturer at the university.
Khesrawi told students that while he agreed there were significant challenges to a second vote, he remained optimistic about it and predicted a high turnout equal to last month’s.
"We are in the initial stages of democracy," he told the audience. "It’s undeniable that there have been some problems with the process, and the electoral commission must take all the steps needed to avoid a repetition of the difficulties experienced in the first round."
"We must be optimistic," he added.
Fasihi went on to stress that Afghans had shown enormous commitment to the election process. He thanked media outlets for their courage and support in reporting the campaign and said ordinary voters were continuing to learn a great deal from their broadcasts.
"People are learning a lot of lessons from the elections," he noted. "They're learning that elections are key to democracy and key to creating a political system in which the public have faith in the rule of law."
Towards the end of the debate, Parwana addressed the students, urging them to endorse the second round just as comprehensively as they had backed the first.
"You young people can guarantee the transparency of the election by continuing your efforts as observers,” he said.
He added that in the first vote, Afghans supported "their ideal candidate without any fear [of reprisals]", and that the same should happen in the second round.
Uzra Aziz is a student at Herat 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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