Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Afghan Youth Debates: Second-Round Turnout Lower in Kunduz
Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan experienced a substantial drop in turnout during the second round of the country's presidential poll, an IWPR debate has heard.
Hamidullah Baluch, regional head of public awareness at the Independent Election Commission (IEC), the body responsible for overseeing the vote, said the region’s heavy dependence on agriculture prevented many workers from leaving the fields to vote.
Baluch recalled that the first round of the presidential election, held on April 5, took place well before crops like wheat and watermelons were ready to harvest. But the subsequent June 14 run-off came at a time when farmers were at their busiest.
"In the second round of the election, 122,000 men and 72,000 women cast votes – a total of some 194,000," he told the audience. "Many more people voted in the first round than in the second."
Official IEC voting figures indicate that nearly 20,000 fewer people voted in the second round than in the first, when turnout was more than 213,000.
The IWPR debate took place at Kunduz University on June 21 before an audience of 100 undergraduates. As well as Baluch, the panellists included Mahmud Sadri, a university lecturer, and Hassan Kulabi, a student and civil society activist.
Payanda, a student who like many Afghans uses only one name, pointed out that supporters of one of the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah, were alleging extensive electoral fraud. He referred to the frequent – though so far largely peaceful –demonstrations taking place across the country, and asked whether the authority of the IEC had been undermined.
Zia ul-Haq Amarkhel, the body's chief electoral officer, was forced to resign earlier this week following an as yet unproven allegation of fraud.
"The election commission is an institution, not a person,” Baluch replied. Even if fraud has been committed, it is the work of individuals rather than the commission. Hence, the commission’s raison d’etre has not been undermined."
Preliminary results of the run-off between Abdullah and his rival, former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, are due to be released on July 2. The winner is expected to be announced on July 22 and the incumbent, President Hamed Karzai, will step down in August.
Addressing the debate, Sadri urged IEC officials to continue their work and ensure that all spoilt or fraudulent ballot papers were identified and set aside. Anyone found to have been involved in attempts to corrupt the process should be prosecuted, he added.
"Unless the electoral process is managed properly and fraud is prevented, our future will not be good," he warned.
Yalda Yusufzai is a student at Kunduz 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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