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Afghan Youth Debates: Scepticism About Election Fairness

By Zabihullah Ghazi






Students and panellists at a debate in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar have expressed doubt about the transparency of the country's presidential election.

A number of guest speakers at the May 27 event in the city of Jalalabad claimed that fraud had undermined the legitimacy of the initial April 5 vote, and was likely to dog the second round, too.

Addressing some 100 undergraduates at the privately-run Al-Taqwa University, lecturer Anwar Faruqi said many people in the region believed their votes had not been "respected" by the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Last week, the IEC announced it had fired 5,340 employees – half its total staff – following allegations that they had been involved in fraud during the first round.

"People are scared," Faruqi told the audience. "Their votes were not respected in the first round, and I don’t expect the run-off to be transparent, either."

Najibullah Nayel, a writer and journalist, agreed with this view, and hinted that he suspected both the remaining presidential candidates – Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai – were likely to privately endorse ballot-rigging in order to win.

"Fraud was committed in the first round and the two candidates will try to use all possible means to get into power," he said.

Anwar Sultani, a civil society activist, said he would do everything he could to assist in preventing corrupt practices on June 14, the date of the run-off.

He expressed hope that voters in Nangarhar would continue to back the electoral process.

"Afghans took part in the April 5 poll and they are ready to participate in the second round, too," he said. "This time, they expect to elect a strong president."

Nurullah, a student at Al-Taqwa University, asked the panel how voters should decide which was the stronger candidate in terms of a commitment to Islam.

Sultani answered that voters should think about a range of factors when deciding who to support. The candidates' policy priorities as well as the strength of their faith needed to be considered, he said.

Zabihullah Ghazi 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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