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

Afghan Youth Debates: New Government Must Respect Voters' Wishes

By Harun Hakimi






The high turnout during Afghanistan's recent presidential and provincial council elections is clear evidence that the public is now demanding more accountable, democratic governance, an IWPR debate has heard.

Guest speakers at the May 22 event in the western city of Herat, including journalists, local councillors and civil society activists, all argued in favour of supporting the ongoing presidential poll, the second round of which will take place on June 14.

Haqiqi Sayed Haqiqi, a reporter, said voters had demonstrated their commitment to reform, and President Hamed Karzai's successor had a duty to respect the wishes of the electorate.

Nader Parwana, a civil society activist, agreed, adding that Afghanistan's election bodies must work harder to address any outstanding issues of corruption prior to next month's run-off.

"The people went to the ballot boxes [on April 5] because they wanted to replace a dictatorship with a democracy," Haqiqi said. "The people demand that the winner of the presidential election takes steps to institutionalise democracy, to bring about government reform and to improve security."

The IWPR debate was held at the privately-run Kahkashan-e Sharq University in Herat. More than 100 male and female undergraduates attended the session in front of panellists Abdul Qader Rahimi, the regional chairman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Fatima Jafari, a member of the provincial council, as well as Haqiqi and Parwana.

Parwana called on the Independent Election Committee (IEC), the body responsible for overseeing the vote, to sack any staff members found to have behaved corruptly during initial polling.

On May 25 the IEC announced that it had done just that – firing 5,340 employees (half of its total staff) over allegations of fraud during the first round.

"Ensuring security, preventing interference by government officials in the electoral process, and respecting votes are among our demands in the second round," Parwana said. "If something happens during the election and you are a witness [to fraud], you should complain so that the commission acts."

Jafari also raised issues of security and transparency, warning the IEC that voters expected it to “hold transparent elections this time", and urging government forces to step up efforts to target insurgent groups bent on disrupting the ballot.

She said, "The public is concerned that the second round may not be held transparently and they're also worried about a possible deterioration in security across the country."

Harun Hakimi 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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