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

Afghan Youth Debates: Second Round Hailed as Success

Journalists and academics from Kabul have praised voters for their unwavering commitment to Afghanistan's presidential election.

Senior lecturers said public support for a free and fair ballot was unquestionable, and urged people to continue backing the process and to accept the result.

Speaking at an IWPR debate held in the capital on June 17, three days after the second-round vote, Fahim Hakim from Kabul University noted that turnout had been high, with an estimated seven million people taking part.

He said Afghans deserved great credit for taking on board the lessons learnt from the initial April 5 poll and ensuring that the same mistakes were not repeated the second time.

"Voters went to the ballot box much better informed [in the second round]," he told the debate. "They had an increased awareness and were able to differentiate between the policies of the two remaining candidates. Additionally, June 14 saw the presence of more experienced [poll] observers and increased coverage by the press."

Hakim argued that all these factors amounted to electoral success.

A run-off vote was called after none of the eight candidates standing in the initial poll won the absolute majority which they needed for outright victory. The two leading contenders – Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai went head-to-head in a final ballot to decide who would lead the country for the next five years. The current president, Hamed Karzai, is to step down in August after completing the two terms he is allowed.

Amanullah Jahanyar, vice-chairman of the Afghan Journalists Union, told the debate that he was confident the second round would turn out to have been a success. He warned, however, that there remained some individuals and groups intent on disrupting the process.

"People voted in large numbers, and I believe the second round was more transparent than the first," he argued. "The public is no longer prepared to be deceived. People want progress, peace and stability."

The IWPR debate took place at Kabul University and the guest panellists also included Mohammad Khan Daneshju, chairman of the Afghanistan Youth Union, and Zia Bomia, a civil society activist.

Rohullah Naseri, an undergraduate in the audience, highlighted the growing controversy about recent accusations of fraud levelled at Zia ul-Haq Amarkhel, a senior official in the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

On election day, a convoy of cars driven by Amarkhel’s staff was stopped by the Afghan National Police while attempting to leave IEC headquarters in Kabul with a consignment of unused ballot papers. Officers reported the incident and refused to allow the vehicles to continue.

Abdullah has since called for the IEC official’s suspension. Amarkhel has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that his staff were simply transporting ballot papers to resupply two polling stations that had run out.

Addressing the debate, Bomia said no one was in a position to make a judgement on the incident until official investigations had concluded. He appealed for patience, and added that Amarkhel's case had become a political issue, with supporters of Abdullah citing it as an example of cheating by his rival’s supporters.

Bomia said that until the investigation was completed, “no one can accuse him [Amarkhel] of committing fraud."

The IEC is due to announce the preliminary results of the election on July 2. Final results are scheduled for July 22.

Enayatullah Omari is a student at Kabul 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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