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

Afghan Youth Debates: Praise for NGO Role in Elections

By Rahim Gul Nayel






Tribal elders in Afghanistan’s southeastern province of Khost have praised the efforts of civil society groups in the build-up to the country’s recent elections.

The historic ballot held on April 5 has been widely acknowledged as a resounding success, with preliminary estimates suggesting that close to 60 per cent of eligible voters took part.

Commentators say the high turnout was due in part to the hard work of organisations that encouraged greater political awareness among ordinary Afghans. Their efforts ensured that even in remote regions, large numbers of voters embraced the election rather than dismissing it as a charade with a foregone conclusion that would be dictated by foreign governments.

"People's massive participation in pre-election meetings was down to the activities of civil society groups,” Musa Jan Zadran, a tribal elder in Khost, told an IWPR debate on April 17. “Their representatives on election day itself also did great work in helping monitor the vote. There may have been some problems but their achievements deserve praise."

The IWPR debate was held before an audience of some 100 students from Sheikh Zayed University in Khost. The panellists included tribal elders, civil society representatives and political analysts.

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission is due to announce full preliminary results from the presidential election on April 26, with final results out on May 14 once officials from the Independent Election Complaints Commission have investigated any allegations of fraud.

Students at last week's debate questioned panellists about why the number of cases of alleged fraud remained high despite the presence of civil-society observers.

Zadran responded by arguing that the many allegations of corruption simply proved that monitoring groups and the media had been effective in reporting illegal activities.

"We saw that civil society activists as well as the media raised their voices against fraudulent practices and revealed them to the public," he said.

Yusuf Entezar, a political analyst, added that he too believed civil society institutions had been hugely effective in raising public awareness ahead of the vote.

He praised their efforts saying that he was "very optimistic" about the role they could now play in establishing a better future for Afghanistan.

Rahim Gul Nayel is a student in Khost 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.