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

Afghan Youth Debates: Security and Fraud Issues Must be Addressed

By Uzra Aziz

Poor security and electoral fraud remain major concerns among voters in Herat province as Afghanistan heads towards a second-round ballot to determine its next president.

Students and poll monitoring officials told an IWPR debate that the initial April 5 ballot had been wracked with problems, and sought reassurances that the June 14 run-off would be trouble-free.

Mohammad Daud Sediqzada, regional chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), the body responsible for the vote, insisted that his officials were much better prepared for the upcoming poll.

Raihana Akbari, Herat provincial head of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), said 700 of her staff were on hand to help observe the process and prevent corruption.

"We have already transported all of the [election] materials to Herat," Sediqzada told the May 29 event held at the Kahkashan-e Sharq University. "We've contracted transport companies to deliver these materials to remote areas and we've sent five per cent extra ballot papers to prevent any shortages."

Afghans will head to the polls again this week after none of the presidential candidates standing in the first round succeeded in winning a 50 per cent share of the vote.

The two remaining contenders – front-runner Abdullah Abdullah and former minster Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai – continue to tour the country's 34 provinces as more than three months of stop-start campaigning draws to an end.

Last week, Abdullah survived a devastating suicide attack as he travelled by car through Kabul. A spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said about 13 civilians died and more than 46 were injured as two successive explosions rocked the capital.

Akbari assured the IWPR debate that FEFA would field just as many election observers to monitor the second poll as it had done in the first. The body employs some 10,000 observers across the country.

"Based on observations by our office, there were some technical issues in the first round," she said. "A shortage of election materials [ballot papers] and low levels of experience among election employees and observers caused some problems. They won’t be repeated in the second round."

Abdul Ghani, deputy chief of security at Afghan National Police headquarters in Herat, said some 25 of the province's 432 polling stations would likely be closed on June 14 due to concerns about insurgent attacks. He said these polling stations were in the Gulran and Shindand districts, but that all others would remain open.

"We have made all the necessary preparations to ensure security for the second round of the elections," he said. "We assure residents of Herat province that they can go to the ballot box without any concerns on polling day. The security forces are at their service."

Uzra Aziz is a student at Herat 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.