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

Afghan Youth Debates: Unrealistic Promises from Candidates

By Mohammad Wali Zirak






Students at a debate in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province criticised local council candidates for promising over-ambitious initiatives as part of their campaign strategies.

The IWPR event, attended by more than 100 male and female undergraduates, heard concerns that many of those standing in the April 5 provincial-level elections were seeking to win votes by deliberately misleading the electorate. Prospective councillors needed to be more realistic about the chances of improving the lives of ordinary Afghans.

Abdul Qayum, a student at Helmand University, said he had heard of provincial council candidates promising programmes that were far beyond the means of even the presidential nominees.

“Apart from conveying the voice of the people to government, provincial council members can only observe and advise on agencies and projects. That is all,” said Mohammad Ismail Shirzai, a regional spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The debate took place at Helmand’s university on March 20 and the panellists included Mohammad Qasem Azizi, a representative of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), Mohammad Qasem Adel, a lecturer at Helmand University, and Mohammad Hashim Nurani, a law and politics lecturer at Arakozia University.

During the event, students discussed past election campaigns, and specifically how many promises made by candidates in 2009 were yet to be fulfilled. Only one in ten of the projects outlined by candidates had actually been implemented, with the still-incomplete Kajaki hydroelectric dam a prime example.

Hekmatullah, a young resident of Helmand, asked the panel what programmes the eight presidential candidates should support. Adel said they should kick-start "long-term, nationwide projects" which would help ensure security and stability.

Azizi added that "serving Islam, the country and its people is a common slogan among the candidates who are standing. But they also need to realise that promising too many projects is unrealistic because they just don't have the capacity."

Mohammad Wali Zirak is a student at Helmand 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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