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Afghan Youth Debates: Paktia Ready for Second-Round Vote

By Abdul Raqib Nuri






Security officials and tribal elders in the southeastern Afghan province of Paktia have told voters that the authorities are well prepared for the second round of the presidential election.

Hajji Khawani Jahani, a local leader, said that villagers were waiting patiently for the June 14 ballot, and that people were just as keen to participate in the run-off as they had been on April 5.

Speaking to more than 100 students at a debate organised by IWPR, he said the narrowing of the field from nine presidential candidates to the two remaining contenders, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, allowed the electorate to make much better sense of the differing policy platforms the pair were offering.

But he warned that the job of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Afghan National Army was far from over, as a number of logistical and security issues remained unresolved.

"The security forces were able to ensure good security during the previous round," he told the debate. "But the weather is warmer this time around, and security problems [with the onset of the Taleban spring offensive] have increased, too.

"Another issue has to do with the IEC. I visited many polling centres on election day where voting had still not started by ten in the morning. We would ask the IEC to solve this."

Since Afghanistan's first round of voting, a number of political analysts have predicted that turnout will be significant lower on June 14 than last time, as apathy sets in in a process that has already taken close to two months.

Commentators also point out that the provincial council elections held the same day as the presidential poll helped swell the number of voters. With the provincial ballot over, Afghan, who have long felt detached from national politics are likely to feel less of a need to vote in a second presidential ballot.

The IWPR debate took place on May 25 at Paktia University. The panellists also included Gul Mohammad, regional departmental head of the justice ministry, Mohammad Bashir Bahram, head of the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) in Paktia, and Sher Ali Faizi, head of the provincial public awareness section of the IEC.

Faizi rejected the notion that the run-off would attract fewer voters. He noted that the IEC was planning to open dozens more polling centres to reduce queues, and that more ballot papers were being printed to ensure no one missed out.

"Ballot papers ran out in the previous round, but we have found a solution to that," he said. "We had 618 polling booths [in Paktia on April 5], but this time we will increase that to over 700."

He acknowledged that it was hard to recruit adequate numbers of female security staff, to frisk women entering polling stations, but said the IEC was coordinating with other agencies to address this.

Gul Mohammad told the debate, "I can confidently say that the first round was a test which we [Afghan security forces] passed successfully. The people of Paktia proudly stood alongside us."

Abdul Raqib Nuri is a student at Paktia 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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