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

Afghan Youth Debates: Huge Turnout in Kunduz

By Yalda Yusufzai






Unexpectedly high numbers of people turned out to vote in the April 5 polls in Kunduz, with election day only marred by a few technical problems, according to an official from the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Sayed Aref, an IEC staffer, told an IWPR debate held at Kunduz University six days after the polls that the numbers of young people, women and elderly people who voted were particularly high.

However, his fellow panelist, Mohammad Naim Rahim, a local university lecturer and civil society activist, noted a number of issues that had hampered proceedings on election day.

“Major concerns in the media were that polling stations opened late, they ran out of ballot papers early, ballot papers were not delivered [to polling stations] on time, and the lack of precise statistics for the number of voters at each site,” he said.

Aref said in response that the IEC had tried to prepare for every eventuality, sending 420,600 ballot papers out to 701 polling stations in Kunduz, and deploying 29 support teams to assist the process.

Most polling stations opened at seven in the morning, although Aref acknowledged that some opened a few minutes late. He said election staff been hired for only one day and it had been difficult to ensure that all 3,500 of them met professional standards.

Education student Mohammad Hassan asked why ballot papers were not simply distributed according to population figures.

“We based our statistics on past experience, but more people participated than we expected,” Aref said.

Marzia Rostami, programme officer with the NGO Women and Youth for Peace and Development, argued that the high turnout and media scrutiny helped combat corruption.

“Since people were present in massive numbers and observers and media assisted as well, this helped reduce the level of fraud to a great extent,” she said.

Rostami also highlighted the high number of female voters, adding, “The strong presence of women was due to security, the media’s efforts to motivate them, their own interest in determining their destiny, and higher levels of political understanding.”

Yalda Yusufzai is a student at Kunduz 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.