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

Afghan Youth Debates: Nangarhar Leaders Predict Second-Round Success

Local leaders in the eastern province of Nangarhar have dismissed speculation that a second round in Afghanistan's presidential race will see a far lower voter turnout than the first.

Mohammad Anwar Sultani, a civil society activist, said Afghans would "proudly participate" in the expected run-off between the two leading candidates, provisionally scheduled for June 14.

Addressing students at an IWPR debate in the provincial centre, he argued that the fact that seven million voters went to the polls in the first round on April 5 was proof that the country was at last tired of conflict.

Sultani claimed that public opinion throughout Afghanistan was now overwhelmingly in favour of peace, stability and a more open, democratic system of government.

"Given the country's political and security situation, holding an election in which the majority of Afghans were able to vote seemed difficult," he told the May 13 event. "But against all expectations, nearly seven million people went to the polls to participate, clearly indicating the public's belief in peace and democracy."

The IWPR debate took place at the privately-run Al-Taqwa Institute of Higher Education in Jalalabad. Guest speakers included Enamullah al-Haq Ehsas, chairman of the Zaland Afghanistan Association, a civil society group, and Erfanullah Quraishi, a lecturer at the university.

Sultani went on to highlight the pivotal role he believed media networks, civil society institutions and members of the public played in observing the April elections. In polling stations where there were too few official election monitors, journalists and the voters themselves proved hugely effective in reporting allegations of fraud.

He called on the same institutions and members of the public to repeat this success in the second round - warning that corruption should not be allowed to spoil the ballot.

"If the election goes to a run-off, the nation will once again participate proudly," he predicted.

Ehsas addressed the debate, saying that the Independent Election Commission, the body responsible for overseeing the vote, again faced major challenges in the second round.

He reminded the audience that the legitimacy of the election would likely be threatened by insurgent attacks. He also praised young Afghans for volunteering as observers in the first round.

"Afghanistan's young people understand that they have no way of establishing a legitimate government other than through elections,” he said. “They did an excellent job observing and monitoring the process in the first round, voluntarily and without gain."

Fazel is a student at Nangarhar 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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