elections in afghanistan
The presidential elections in Afghanistan constitute the first time in the country’s history where power will be transferred democratically, but that’s not to say it’s without its own troubles. Voting began April 5, 2014, a second round was held on June 14, and the final results are expected July 22.

The two main candidates were former-finance minister Ashraf Ghani and former-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. The preliminary results show a win on Ghani’s part, but Abdullah believes that the election had votes rigged in favor of Mr. Ghani. Abdullah claimed he would declare himself president if this issue is not further looked into. Currently, both candidates have claimed victory.

One main concern for fair voting is that although there are only 12 million eligible voters, about 20 million registered voting cards went into circulation during the elections. The United Nations had created a plan to audit about 43 percent of the votes cast, but Mr. Abdullah did not find the plan acceptable, and wished for about half of all votes to be audited instead. The Abdullah campaign also wants foreign officials to conduct the audits, or for current president Hamid Karzai to replace the head of the Election Complaints Commission, who is seen as pro-Ghani.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took a trip to Afghanistan to act as a mediator between the candidates. Although the United States has been looking forward to President Karzai being out of office, the best way to mediate the issue is working with him.

A protester had stated: “We want the international community to take action, and we want real democracy.”

A few incentives for the Abdullah campaign to stay in check is that the United States government warned that billions of aid dollars are at stake, and German officials warned that they would cut off aid as well if Abdullah were to stage a breakaway government.

What will be affected by the winner? Once a winner is decided, the new President will have to make a security agreement with the United States, dealing with U.S. troops on the ground and their departure and the training of Afghan security forces. The newly elected leader will also help decide on other issues, such as negotiating with the Taliban, fighting poverty, halting corruption and stopping the drugs trade and the violence it entails.

The transfer is expected to happen in August. Until then, the state remains in limbo as the government and international world work toward making it a peaceful and democratic transition.

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: The New York Times 1, BBC, The New York Times 2
Photo: CNN

On February 2, 2014, Afghanistan’s 11 presidential candidates kicked off their campaigns with a number of rallies held in the nation’s capital. By giving Afghans the right to choose their leaders, this election, set for April 5, will mark the country’s transition to democracy.

Yet, hope for the future is not without its baggage.

At the same time, as the Afghan elections come to fruition, US led coalition forces will withdraw from more than a decade of war against Taliban insurgency. The Taliban, however, continues to instill fear in the lives of innocent individuals. Just the day before campaigns began, two men working for the former foreign minister and presidential candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, were murdered in Herat’s Western province.

Though the Taliban have not claimed responsibility, which would be unusual for them, the assassinations have caused quite a bit of apprehension in regard to safety and security during election times.

Hamid Karzai’s possible ties to the Taliban add to this fear.

Recently, discovered secret contacts between the Afghan President and the fundamentalist Islam political movement explain acts of dubious makeup contrary to U.S. and Western efforts. Mr. Karzai has repeatedly refused to sign a security agreement with Washington, which would allow the U.S. military to operate against the Taliban and possible terrorists, and has instead pawned the discussion off on his future successor.

Likewise, he has both persevered to release Taliban militants from prison and spread perverted information of American war crimes. United States officials are consequently unsure of their ability to maintain security with the government.

The Taliban, in an effort to express their rejection of the April 5 election, have increased attacks in the capital. One embassy stated that the number of monthly attacks are at their highest since 2008, likely due to the impending presidential elections.

A secure voting environment is key to Afghanistan’s progress in a democratic election process. Anxiety about the safety of the polls could prevent some citizens from showing up to vote, thus diminishing the legitimacy of the election as a whole. And when Hamid Karzai’s brother, Qayum Karzai, as well as Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf, a former Islamist warlord, are included among the election’s candidates, voter turnout is of the utmost importance.

The 11 candidates take on a sizeable burden in their run for the presidency. Not only do they face possible life-threatening attacks by the Taliban, they also are agreeing to take on the load of a war-torn country wrought with corruption. Their promises of socioeconomic development and improved relations with the Western world bring hope to citizens looking for change.

Through global acknowledgement of the importance of this impending election, perhaps a peaceful and successful future will be in sight for Afghanistan’s vulnerable citizens.

Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: Al Jazeera, New York Times, TIME, Reuters
Photo: Telegraph