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Afghan Youth Debates: Voters Must Back Second Round

By Rahim Gul Nayel

Panellists at a video-link debate between Helmand and Khost universities have called on young Afghans to fully support the second round of the presidential election.

In a video conference via Skype, lecturers and tribal elders told students to give careful thought to which candidate they wanted to back, as Afghanistan's future lay in their hands.

Addressing the May 31 event, Nasir Ahmad Roshan, head of the Lincoln Educational Centre in Khost province, stressed that merit, not ethnicity, should be the deciding factor in choosing President Hamed Karzai's successor.

He said a successful run-off on June 14 was essential to both the country's short-term prosperity and its long-term development goals.

"The intensification of attacks by armed opposition groups as well as voter mistrust in the Independent Election Commission are both major factors that may lower participation in the second round," he warned.

"But this is about Afghanistan's destiny and its future depends on what you [voters] do. The political and economic programmes of the candidates must be studied, and you must vote for someone who is sympathetic to this country. You should not support a candidate based on his ethnicity."

Ali Shah Mazlumyar, a tribal elder from Helmand, reiterated Roshan's message and told the debate he remained confident that voters in his province would support the poll. He said villagers were keen to take part, provided that their votes counted for something and that security was good.

"In order to establish a legitimate system in Afghanistan, the people of Helmand are prepared to act as pioneers setting an example for other provinces," he said.

Zuhra Jalal, a member of the provincial council in Khost, reminded debate participants that some districts in her province, which shares a border with Pakistan, had a history of instability and that the region continued to face significant insurgent threats. Many voters were too concerned about the lack of security to consider taking part in the election, she said.

"Women cannot vote at all in some areas," she told undergraduates. "Another problem is regional customs and traditions which prevent female voters from casting their ballots.

“But as public awareness and security increases, more people will participate in elections."

Rahim Gul Nayel is a student at Khost 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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