Workers shift ballot boxes at the Independent Election Commission warehouses on September 23, 2010 in Kabul.
Workers shift ballot boxes at the Independent Election Commission warehouses on September 23, 2010 in Kabul. © Paula Bronstein/Getty Images


Afghanistan: Youth and Elections

Years active: 2013-2016

The 2014 presidential election was of critical importance for Afghanistan. President Hamed Karzai stepped down after more than a decade in office, and his successor Mohammad Ashraf Ghani took charge at a time when the NATO-led military contingent was withdrawing from the country.

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The last presidential election, held in 2009, was marred by security problems, low turnout, and allegations of manipulation and fraud. Most of these issues recurred during the 2014 ballot, too. Many Afghans, young people in particular, believe the political process is controlled by powerful interests that rule out the possibility of a real expression of popular will. If democracy is to work, new voters need to be sufficiently enthused to take part. They should be in a position to weigh up the choices they are offered and to distinguish fact from propaganda.

To address these issues, IWPR launched the Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out initiative, designed to encourage Afghans of university age to take part in the presidential vote and the accompanying provincial elections. We are now in the second phase, designed to promote participation of young people – better and less well educated alike – from across Afghanistan in the 2015 parliamentary election.

The key objectives of our work in the second phase are:

  • To help young Afghans from across the country, whatever their educational level, to understand the electoral process as a critical element of a functioning democracy, and to encourage them to take an active part in their country’s political future.
  • To encourage young people to take part in all elements of the electoral process – as voters, as supporters of candidates, and as watchdogs.
  • To counter extremist propaganda designed to alienate or marginalise those who support greater diversity, democracy and tolerance.
  • To increase public satisfaction with and confidence in government by improving the level of public transparency and accountability at national and local levels.
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