Political Landscape

Afghanistan’s 2019 elections (1): The countdown to the presidential election has kicked off


The IEC members appear in a public meeting on 20 January to announce the final results of the October 2018 parliamentary elections for nine provinces. After more than three months, the IEC is still struggling to wrap up the results of last year’s elections, while it now needs to get ready to prepare for the presidential election, and three other votes, on 20 July 2019. Photo: IEC website

The IEC members appear in a public meeting on 20 January to announce the final results of the October 2018 parliamentary elections for nine provinces. After more than three months, the IEC is still struggling to wrap up the results of last year’s elections, while it now needs to get ready to prepare for the presidential election, and three other votes, on 20 July 2019. Photo: IEC website

Afghanistan has just concluded its candidate nomination period for the presidential election, which has been moved from the initial date, 20 April, to 20 July 2019. The election will now involve four votes at the same time: provincial elections, district council elections, parliamentary elections in Ghazni province, and the presidential poll. With this, the country has been plunged into an important period that will be characterised by demands for electoral reform, as well as uncertainty about the sequencing of elections and peace. AAN’s researcher Ali Yawar Adili (with input by Martine van Bijlert) lays out the background to the delay of the election date, the competing demands of the process and the likely obscurity of the year ahead. He concludes that the calls for reforms, including changing the electoral commissioners, may well turn into a new battlefield between various factions and forces inside and outside of the government. 

Delay of the presidential election until summer

After weeks of speculation, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has formally delayed the presidential election until 20 July 2019. It has also decided to hold four pending elections at the same time. The new date was announced on 30 December 2018. The elections, which were initially planned for 20 April, were delayed for various reasons. These included: the need for reform, especially after the mismanagement of the 2018 parliamentary elections; the winter weather conditions; and possible pressure in favour of peace talks, or even a negotiated agreement before the poll (even though peace processes tend to be lengthy and unpredictable, whilst the linking of the two could obscure the preparations for the elections in the months ahead). 

In fact, the delay could be seen as a negative spill-over effect of the IEC’s decision to delay last year’s parliamentary election from 7 July to 20 October 2018 (on top of the fact that more than three years were spent on reform, thus missing the constitutional date according to which the parliamentary poll had to have been held by June 2015). As AAN wrote then, the delay meant “that parliamentary and district elections would be held just seven months before the presidential poll is due, risking electoral congestion and political chaos.” Since then, the problems have only been compounded by the cumulative delay of the results of the 2018 parliamentary elections, which have still not been finalised (see here).

The initial announcement of the presidential election date was made well ahead of the legal deadline during a press conference on 1 August 2018 (see AAN’s previous reporting here). (1)  The president had, at the time, asked the IEC to announce the election date early in order to stave off pressure by political parties. (In the run-up to the parliamentary vote, the parties were calling on the government and the IEC to suspend the on-going voter registration and to use biometric technology, calling the manual voter registration “flawed and fraudulent.” After initial resistance by the government and the IEC, they yielded to the pressure by the political parties and introduced biometric voter verification.)

At the time, UNAMA welcomed the announcement of the presidential election date as “an important moment for democracy in Afghanistan,” while some election observers criticised it as “a rush.” For instance, the executive director of Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA), Yusuf Rashid, told the media that, either the date would be missed, or the elections would be held on that date, but with a myriad of problems. “We are worried about the consequences of the next election,” he said. 

Candidate nominations for the presidential election had already started on 22 December 2018, but the process was slow and uncertain. Although potential candidates did come to collect information packages, they did not yet register and, on 24 December 2018, the IEC put out a statement saying that a new candidate nomination period would be announced after further consultations. On 26 December, the BBC quoted a source within the IEC saying that, although 50 people had received the nomination information package, none of them had met the conditions yet. A number of the candidates had not been able to introduce their running-mates, or to pay the one million Afs (around USD 13,300) deposit to the bank. A few days later, on 30 December, as mentioned above, a new election date, with a new electoral calendar (annexed to this piece for reference), was announced.

The new candidate nomination period ended on 20 January 2019. According to Etilaat Roz, “credible sources” within the IEC claimed that President Ghani had asked the IEC to further extend the candidate nomination period. An IEC official confirmed to AAN that the president had, indeed, made such a request, but the IEC could not accept it, as the president himself was one of the potential candidates. Both President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah finally registered on the last day of the nomination period.

According to the IEC, more than 70 people had collected candidate nomination information packages from the IEC. 20 of them came to the IEC for registration, while only 18 of them were able to meet the legal requirements and register their nomination (a separate AAN piece on the candidates and their nomination is forthcoming). 

Reactions to the delay of the electoral date

After the announcement of the new election date, the presidential palace immediately indicated that it respected the IEC’s decision to delay the elections, and promised to cooperate. Other major political forces on the other hand, such as the Grand National Coalition, the coalition of political parties, Mehwar-e Mardom (see AAN’s background here), as well as the Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution, called the IEC’s decision a violation of the constitution, given that the presidential term expires on 22 May 2019. (2) At the same time, they called on the IEC to use the opportunity to carry out necessary reforms – in a seeming acknowledgement that an election on a constitutionally mandated date would be neither feasible, nor preferable.

On the side of the international community, there were the usual cautious statements of support. UNAMA welcomed “the clarity in the electoral calendar,” acknowledging “the IEC’s assessment that additional time is needed in order to learn from the 2018 parliamentary elections and adequately prepare.” UNAMA further called for “a full package of realistic and prioritized reforms,” which would include cleaning the voters’ registry, establishing a clear division of responsibilities between the IEC and its secretariat, ensuring the secretariat was fully staffed and professional, and making changes to its structures.

The various political groups differed over whether or not the current government could continue in its current form after its term expired on 22 May 2019. Some said that a new arrangement should be set up to take over the state’s affairs, some called for curtailing the president’s authorities after the expiry date, and others called for a broader consensus to decide about the issue. 

Opposition group Mehwar-e Mardom-e Afghanistan said the delay was in “clear contravention of article 61 of the constitution and Afghanistan’s election law.” It indicated that only peace could justify a delay, which it considered “an illegal act.” Mehwar called on the government to stop interfering in the IEC’s affairs and to halt all dismissals and appointments of senior government officials. It further stressed that government resources should not be used for election campaigns, necessary reforms should be carried out in the electoral bodies (without specifying what these reforms should look like), and that an online biometric verification system should be implemented in all electoral processes.

The Grand National Coalition, a conglomerate of opposition groups, said it considered the “ambiguous process” of delaying the presidential elections, for whatever reason, unacceptable and concerning. (3) At the same time, it continued to emphasise four principles: full use of technology in the voter registration and on election day; change and reform of the structure of the electoral commissions; a change in the electoral system from SNTV (single non-transferable vote) to MDR (multi-dimensional representation) (see AAN’s background here); and monitoring of the election process by parties and the coalition. The joint committee of political parties issued a similar statement.

Former national security adviser and a presidential candidate Hanif Atmar, who had already been very outspoken in the run-up to the announcement of the delay, called the decision “in contravention of the clarity of the text of the constitution” and said that no “legal and logical justification had been presented for the unexpected delay.” He reiterated his earlier position that holding four elections at the same time was beyond the capacity and capability of the IEC and called on the leadership of the current government to step down after their legal term had expired. (4)

Neither the joint committee of political parties, nor the Grand National Coalition, went as far as Atmar. So far, they have remained silent about the legitimacy of the current government after 22 May. Akhlaqi of Jamiat told AAN on 9 January that, since the constitution does not specify whether the current government can continue after 22 May, – it only stipulates that the government will no longer be legitimate – they would call for a grand political national consensus among the political parties and civil society, supported by the international community, to decide on an alternative. According to him, this could be: 1) continuation of the government, but with a reduction in the president’s authorities, 2) an interim government, or 3) the president stepping down and, for instance, the chief justice taking over the affairs of the state. 

The Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution (ICOIC) issued a legal opinion saying that the IEC’s decision was a “clear violation of the constitution” and called on the IEC to “compensate for its inefficiencies in making the necessary arrangements to hold the elections and end the violation of the constitution”  (see here). When asked what the ICOIC wanted the IEC to do, Abdullah Shafayi, a member of the commission, told AAN that the commission had the responsibility to hold those who violate the constitution accountable to the public opinion. Otherwise, he said, “ab rafta ba joy bargardana namesha (what is done cannot be undone).”

In 2009, under former President Hamed Karzai, there had been similar discussions, after the IEC delayed the presidential elections to August of that year, also in contravention of the constitution. At the time, the discussions had included calls for a loya jirga as an alternative to the elections itself; formation of an interim government; and, declaring a state of emergency. The matter was resolved in President Karzai’s favour after the Supreme Court issued an opinion that the continuation of the president’s term was in the interest of the country (see this AAN paper). The issue of delay in this year’s presidential elections may well be settled in a similar fashion, if political forces continue to press for an arrangement for the period between May and July.   

Call for changing the electoral commissioners

In the meantime, elections observers and political parties have been calling for the replacement of the IEC’s commissioners, given the breakdown in management of the 2018 parliamentary elections. FEFA’s Yusuf Rashid told Hasht-e Sobh on 26 December 2018 that, if the members and leadership of the IEC were not changed, the presidential election would be marred by the same problems as the parliamentary election: “The [IEC] is in no way competent [enough] to manage the presidential election” (see here). Similarly, on 7 December, the Alliance of Election Observer Groups for Transparent Elections, a group of six domestic election observer organisations (5), “firmly called on the leadership of the government of Afghanistan to suspend the duty of the [IEC] members and leadership and appoint a special committee of election specialists to supervise the parliamentary elections affairs and put an end to this dilemma, given today’s realities that the [IEC] no longer has the capability to lead and manage an election process” (Dari here and English here). They made the call in the wake of the decision of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) to completely nullify the Kabul parliamentary vote (see AAN’s reporting here). Although the ECC’s decision was later overturned, the dispute has not gone away, for example, on 22 January, candidates closed the entry gates to Kabul city in protest against the preliminary results of the Kabul vote (media report here).

On 10 January, the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA), another major election observer organisation, also called for dismissal of “all members of the IEC,” saying that the IEC lacked “the required capacity to bring electoral reforms or to hold the upcoming presidential elections.” (see here). Even IEC members seemed to believe they would be changed soon. Maliha Hassan, an IEC commissioner, recently said that “changes to the leadership of the IEC were likely” and that, with a change of faces in the management of the IEC, the election would be successful. 

On 13 January, Vice-President Sarwar Danesh also seemed to indicate changes were coming when he said in a speech: “The electoral commissions must know that the people are running out of patience, and can no longer tolerate the weaknesses and inefficiencies. It is now the duty of the National Unity Government to initiate comprehensive reforms and prevent a further infringement of people’s rights, otherwise, the presidential elections will meet a destiny [even] worse than that of the parliamentary elections.” (see here

This raises new questions about the legal procedure to replace the commissioners. According to article 14 of the electoral law, four members of the IEC are appointed for a period of five years and three for a period of three years. This means the term of three current IEC members will only expire in November of this year and the term of three others in November 2021. (See the annex in this AAN’s report here). However, there is a precedent of terminating electoral commissions after every election and before they complete their terms. For example, the previous commissions that had supervised the 2014 elections also had not completed their term and were replaced after the electoral law was amended (as part of the National Unity Government agreement). (see here).

It seems that both the government and political forces are now converging towards an agreement on the need to replace the commissioners. This may be a matter of principle, but it may also simply be the hope – on all sides – to be able to influence the appointment process.

Political parties have, so far, discussed three main ways in which the commissions could be replaced. First, in accordance with the existing electoral law, a selection committee can call for applications, vet the applicants, and submit a shortlist of candidates to the president, who then appoints IEC and ECC members from among them (see earlier AAN reporting here). But since the president himself is seeking re-election, political parties have their doubts about the transparency and neutrality of the existing process. Muhammad Nateqi, the deputy leader of Hezb-e Wahdat-e Mardom-e Afghanistan, called this option “haman ash wa haman kasa” (meaning: the same old story). The second option would be to appoint new commissioners in consultation with political parties and candidates. A third possible option would be to fully outsource the management of the elections to a private company. According to Nateqi, the German company Dermalog, which had also provided the biometric technology for the parliamentary elections, had expressed its willingness to undertake such a venture. It told the parties that had they implemented the technology during the parliamentary poll, they would not have faced the technology failures observed on election days. The political parties, unsurprisingly, prefer the second option.

The government has now started consultations on how to carry out yet another round of electoral reforms, which include changing the commissioners. Rashid from FEFA told AAN that he had been asked for his views and that FEFA was working on a proposal that would allow political parties and election observers to introduce ten people each to the president, from which he could pick four, and that three others would be appointed by the president in consultation with government officials. Head of TEFA, Naim Ayubzada, reported similar meetings with government leaders, in which they discussed replacing both IEC and ECC commissioners; amending the existing mechanism for appointing new commissioners; and holding the commissions accountable for their work. To introduce a new selection mechanism, the president might envisage issuing a new legislative decree while the parliament is on winter recess. 

Other reforms that have been called for include: filling the vacancies with experienced people, cleaning the voter registry and amending regulations and procedures. While the IEC has specified in its electoral calendar that it plans to do a top-up voter registration exercise, the political parties have called for a complete new biometric voter registration with a scan of all ten fingerprints, an eye scan and photos taken either on the election day or before. This may well become a time-consuming controversy. Last year, the political parties effectively threatened to withdraw their support for the parliamentary election and pressured both the IEC and the government into a last minute decision (see AAN’s analysis here) to use biometric voter verification on election day. (For a first-hand AAN account of the ensuing chaos, see here.)

IEC member Rafiullah Bidar had earlier already listed most of these issues, or similar versions of them, as major lessons that the IEC had learned and that, he said, needed to be taken into consideration before conducting the presidential elections. These issues included: the voter list should be reformed, completed and published; new software and programmes should be installed into the biometric devices; IEC offices in the centre and provinces run by acting heads should be reformed [staffed]; polling staff should be trained; and more and better public outreach should be conducted. However, what is important is whether or not the IEC, the government and other political parties will be able to agree on the nuances of the necessary changes. While it is not clear if the parties will stick together on their reform proposals, the way voters should be registered ahead of the next election may well turn into a new point of dispute with consequences for the preparations.

Four elections together or not?

The IEC is currently planning to hold four elections at the same time. It had earlier decided to only hold the presidential elections and the delayed parliamentary election for Ghazni province on 20 April, while holding the provincial and district council elections later in the summer. (6) At the time, Zabihullah Sadat, a deputy spokesman for the IEC, told the media that the IEC, due to low capacity, time constraints and lack of financial resources, would not be able to hold four elections together. The government, however, did not seem to agree. On 21 December 2018, second Vice-President Sarwar Danesh wrote a Facebook post titled “Unknown fate of provincial and district councils, incomplete structure of the Meshrano Jirga and unclear status of the Loya Jirga.” In this piece, Danesh criticised the fact that the dates for the district council or provincial council elections had not been published, adding that the government “had announced to the IEC very clearly that the electoral calendar should be set in a way to complete the government structures after years” and had, therefore, asked the IEC to hold all four elections simultaneously. (7)

Danesh provided the following arguments for the decision to hold all the elections together: it would meet the constitutional provision and complete the national structure of elected bodies, as well as the composition of the Loya Jirga. It would, moreover, decrease the sacrifices of the security forces, lower the election costs, increase both the turnout and the legitimacy of the elected bodies, and make voting easier for the voters, who would only have to come once, instead of every few months.   

Danesh’s post was a bit of a surprise given that, during an earlier event in August 2017, he had openly said he saw no need for district council elections (or village council or municipal council elections), and had argued that four elected institutions (the presidency, Wolesi Jirga, mayoral and provincial councils) were enough. He also said that Afghanistan did not have the money to hold so many elections, the expertise to manage the various elected bodies, or any need for them in terms of democracy and popular will. (See AAN’s previous reporting here)

Although the district councils have no clear function in Afghanistan’s day-to-day government system, they are needed to complete two important institutions: a Constitutional Loya Jirga and the upper house of the parliament – and are, thus, a prerequisite to be able to change the constitution. Not having elected district councils, therefore, could be used as an excuse to reject demands for a Loya Jirga. So, when it was revealed that the IEC, in late July 2018, was proposing a delay in the district council elections, critics like Mohiuddin Mahdi, an MP from Baghlan and a member of Jamiat-e Islami, called this “an antidemocratic decision” of a government taking “pre-emptive action” against the convening of a Loya Jirga to amend and reform the constitution. Some of the presidential candidates, including President Ghani himself and Hanif Atmar, in the meantime, have picked a third, informal (ethnic Uzbek) running-mate (Yusuf Ghazanfar for Ghani and former Jawzjan governor, Alem Sa’i, for Atmar), in addition to the first and second (respectively Tajik and Hazara) vice-presidential candidates. The idea is, presumably at some point, to amend the constitution to create a third vice-presidential post. The move seems motivated by the wish to expand their appeal by including representatives from, in the case of both Ghani and Atmar, the Turk-tabaran (Turkic) community – with the Uzbeks and Turkmens as their largest groups – to join their tickets. 

In practice, a lot remains to be done to ensure inclusive district council elections. SIGAR’s latest quarterly report, published on 30 October 2018, shows that out of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, only 226 districts are under government control (75) or government influence (151); 49 districts are under insurgent control (10) or influence (39). The remaining 132 districts (32.4 per cent of Afghanistan’s districts) are contested. The IEC was not able to register voters in most of the districts controlled by the insurgents and will struggle to hold elections there. 

Peace or elections?

‌Recent United States initiatives to seek a negotiated end to the Afghan war and a withdrawal of its troops from the country, has lent new urgency to the Afghan government’s peace efforts (see AAN’s analysis here). It has also led to discussions in public and private circles as to whether or not the elections should be postponed in favour of peace talks, or how the two processes may help or harm each other. According to media reports, the US administration had wanted to press the Afghan government to postpone the presidential elections, so that peace talks with Taleban could take place first. For instance, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, had raised the idea to push back the poll in talks with “various stakeholders and intermediaries.” On 18 December 2018, the media quoted Taleban officials saying that the US delegation, led by Khalilzad, had pressed “for a six-month truce as well as an agreement to name Taliban representatives to a future caretaker government” during their meetings in Abu Dhabi.

This was later rejected by Khalilzad, who told Ariana News on 20 December 2018: “The question of a plan for the political future of Afghanistan is a question that Afghans should sit together and agree on. We did not say even one or two sentences to them about an interim government or putting off the elections. Some who have negative or vicious goals spread false news to create problems between us and Afghans or the government.” He did, however, say that, in his opinion, it would be better “if an agreement is reached about peace before the elections” – even though he must know how highly unlikely this is. (8)

In a comment issued on 10 January, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed to the US for the delay of the election date, saying: “Everything seems to suggest that the decision to put off the election was made under the United States’ influence, which needs additional time to prepare for holding the upcoming voting in accordance with its patterns and building a peace process in Afghanistan according to its own scenario. … We note that this decision was made despite the repeated assurances by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghanistan’s Election Commission concerning the need to strictly adhere to the deadlines for the election announced earlier.” 

Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, however, told the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers on 14 January that the delay had nothing to do with the peace, and that the elections had been postponed due to “technical problems,” which, he said, had been clearly seen in the parliamentary elections, including the fact that the results had not been announced after almost three months. (See media report here). Abdullah further related a funny comment from his friend about the long-drawn-out 2014 presidential elections, who had said: “If Afghanistan had the population of China, the election results would not be announced until doomsday.”

On 20 January, during his registration, President Ghani reacted even more fiercely (see video here), saying “Afghans do not accept an interim government today, tomorrow and a hundred years later. If someone has such stupid ideas, and a few former employees [his deputy spokesperson did not know who he was referring to] whom I refused to accept to be my students have come up with proposal of an interim government, they should think again.” 

Conclusion: will the new election date be met?

With the conclusion of the candidate nomination process for the presidential election, the country has been plunged into a period of excitement and intense activity. The political mobilisation and potential turmoil will last at least until 7 October this year, when, according to the electoral calendar, the final results of the provincial and district elections are scheduled to be announced. 

The responses of political groups and forces, as well as the international community, to the announced delay of the elections illustrate what are to be the likely themes and controversies in the near future. First, the fact that the delay is formally a violation of the constitution – but at the same time, practically inevitable, given the state of the IEC, the chaotic conduct of the last parliamentary election and the fact that they have still not been satisfactorily finalised. Second, the demand that the delay should be used for electoral reform, including the replacement of the electoral commissioners – a demand that has been made after every election, but tends to swiftly get lost in bureaucratic delays and political and legal wrangling. Third, the call by some of the political groups for an interim solution after the constitutional term of the current government expires on 22 May. Where some have called for a limiting of the president’s authorities, others have simply called vaguely for a broad consensus to decide about the matter. 

It is not fully clear what is behind the decision to delay. It does not seem very likely that it was because of the hopes to start peace talks. As Nateqi told AAN, the result of peace talks will probably not be an election, but rather an interim government. Several people have cited practical considerations, such as unfavourable weather conditions that, in some areas, would impede any voter registration exercise ahead of the vote. The need and calls for reforms could be both a reason for the delay, as well as a new battlefield for various factions, candidates and parties inside and outside the government. Experiences from the past have shown there will likely be a tug of war over who controls the appointments to the commissions, especially given that the presidential elections are high-stake. 

The tug-of-war could be between within the government, in particular between President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, who are both running, but do not have to resign from their positions (unlike other senior government officials). They may now have an added incentive to want to ensure that ‘their’ people are appointed to key positions (the media have, for instance, already reported that Abdullah and Ghani disagreed over the appointment of the new acting minister of interior, after Amrullah Saleh resigned to join Ghani as his first running-mate). It could also take place between the government and political parties or other candidates. This likely political wrangling may hold back the necessary reforms and, thus, further delay the elections. They could also discredit the elections even before they take place, if reforms are not implemented or implemented half-heartedly. 

Edited by Martine van Bijlert 

(1) The early announcement of the election date on 1 August 2018 was made in response to a call by President Ghani during a meeting in the Palace on 22 July with the IEC, the UN, the EU and a number of ambassadors of countries supporting the elections. The president asked the IEC to “set the presidential election date and share it with the people as soon as possible.” A day before the announcement of the election date, the IEC had held a consultative meeting with the ECC leadership, representatives of political parties, civil society and international organisations, where according to the IEC a “majority” of the participants had agreed with the 20 April 2019 date, but the parties’ agreement with the date might have been an attempt to avoid any blame for a possible delay. 

(2) The presidential term expires on 22 May 2019. According to the electoral law, the election for a new president should be held 30 to 60 days before the expiry date, which is between 22 March and 22 April 2019. Article 71 of the electoral law stipulates that the IEC should announce the election date at least 180 days in advance, and publish the electoral calendar at least 120 days before the election day. This means that the respective deadlines were 22 September to 22 November to announce the date, and 22 October 2018 to 22 December 2018 to publish the electoral calendar. 

(3) The Grand National Coalition was launched on 26 July 2018 as an expansion of the ‘Ankara coalition’ that was formed in June 2017. It also included the New National Front, Mehwar-e Mardom and influential figures from the Greater Kandahar Unity and Coordination Movement and the Eastern Provinces Coordination Council. However, the coalition may have fallen apart, as several of its members have joined different presidential tickets. 

(4) Earlier, on 27 December, Atmar had issued a statement saying that “It seems that the Election Commission under pressure by the government plans to delay the presidential election date which … will lead the country into crisis.” The statement said that he considered any delay illegal and unacceptable and “the beginning of the engineering of the election process by the government.”

(5) The Alliance of Election Observer Groups for Transparent Elections consists of FEFA, Free Watch Afghanistan (FWA), Training Human Rights Association for Afghan Women (THRA), Free Election and Transparency Watch Organisation (FETWO), Elections and Transparency Watch Organisation of Afghanistan (ETWA), and Afghanistan Youths Social and National Organisation.

(6) The IEC had initially planned to hold the district council elections together with the parliamentary elections in October 2018. However, on 29 July 2018, it proposed that they be postponed. The IEC argued that only 40 out of Afghanistan’s 387 districts had an adequate number of candidates to compete. On 27 November, the IEC, in decision number 114-1397 (AAN has seen a copy of it), set the following dates: 20 April 2019 for the presidential elections and parliamentary elections in Ghazni and 30 Sunbula 1398 (21 September 2019) for the provincial and district council elections.

A separate law to regulate the authorities and responsibilities of the councils still has to be approved by parliament and the president. The IDLG had been reportedly holding consultative meetings in different regions of the country on what roles should be codified for district councils. However, since the district council elections were postponed, there is no indication of any progress yet..

(7) Danesh pointed out that the legal term of both the provincial councils and one third of the Meshrano Jirga had already ended, which calls into question the legitimacy of the Meshrano Jirga. Provincial councils are elected for a period of four years, while district councils – which have so far not been established – are to be elected for a period of three years. Two thirds of the Meshrano Jirga’s 102 members are to be elected from among the provincial and district councils. These bodies – and, thus, the electoral processes that elect their members – are particularly relevant for when the government wants to call a Loya Jirga, which according to article 110 of the constitution, comprises of: 1) members of both houses of the national assembly; 2) heads of all provincial councils; and 3) heads of all district councils. 

(8) Tolonews, however, leaked a document by the RAND corporation, a global policy think-tank in the US, titled “Agreement on a Comprehensive Settlement” (AAN has seen a copy of it) that called for the establishment of “a Transitional Government for the 18-month transitional period, including a Transitional Executive with a negotiated by-name list of a Chairman, several Vice Chairmen, and members (rotating chairmanship is suggested in case the parties cannot agree on a single individual to serve as Chairman.” According to Tolonews the document had been shared with several senior Afghan government officials.

Annex: electoral calendars

The IEC has published two calendars: a detailed one also covering the remaining activities linked to the parliamentary elections, and a shortened version dealing only with the presidential elections. Original can be found here.

Calendar 1: Electoral calendar, also including the remaining activities for the parliamentary elections

 ActivityStartEnd Duration
1Election Calendar Publication31 December 201831 December 2018 1
2Wolesi Jirga Elections finalisation – Result announcement23 November 20187 January 2018 48
3Lessons Learned Workshops HQ and PEOs – Identification of key activities in preparation for the next elections15 December 201831 December 2018 17 
4Recruitment for vacant posts – completion of taskhil posts HQ and field offices1 January 201931 March 2019 59
5Capacity building plan and training for newly hired staff1 February 201931 March 2019 59
6Development and approval of public outreach plan for top-up voter registration1 January 31 January 2019 31 
7Implementation of public outreach plan for top-up voter registration1 January 201931 March 2019 59 
8Operations plan and budget finalisation (including NUG and IC funding commitment)20 January 201920 January 2019 1
9Possible legislative changes required (ie Gahzni elections)31 January 20191 February 2019 2
10BVV assessment/procurement or introduction of other new technologies1 January 20191 February 2019TBC32 
11Security – PC assessment; commitment from ANDSF to electoral timeline1 January 20191 February 2019 32
12Socialisation and agreement on readiness report by key stakeholders30 June 201930 June 2019  
13Voter list cleaning1 January 201910 March 2019TBC69 
14Voter registration update1 March 201920 March 2019 20
15Voter registration update Ghazni1 March 201931 March 2019 31
16Public display of voters list for review for correction1 March 201931 March 2019 31
17Publication of preliminary voter list10 April 201910 April 2019IEC1
18Objections against the preliminary voter list10 April 201913 April 20194
19Corrections on preliminary voters list10 April 201913 April 20194
20 Complaints against exhibition and correction process10 April 201927 April 2010ECC18
21Candidate nomination Presidential22 December 201820 January 2019 30
22Verification of candidate documents – presidential 21 Jaunary 20194 February 2019 15
23Publication of preliminary list of candidates5 February 20195 February 2019 1
24ECC vetting process5 February 201922 March 2019 46
25ECC submission of decision (s) to IEC23 March 201923 March 201933+141
26Challenges and appeals to preliminary list of candidates5 February 201922 March 2019 46
27Candidate withdrawal final date23 March 201923 March 2019 1
28Ballot lottery 25 March 201925 March 2019 1
29 Publication of final list of candidates26 March 201926 March 2019 1
30Candidate nomination PC-DC-Ghazni1 March 201915 March 2019 15
31Verification of candidate documents- PC- DC- Ghazni2 March 201921 March 2019 20
32ECC vetting process22 March 20196 May 2019 46
33ECC submission of decision(s) to IEC29 April 201929 April 2019 1
34Challenges and appeals to preliminary list of candidates22 March 20196 May 201933+1446
35Publication of preliminary list of candidates22 March 201922 March 2019 1
36Candidate withdrawal final date6 May 20196 May 2019 1
37Ballot lottery 7 May 20197 May 2019 1
38Publication of final list of candidates7 May 20197 May 2019 1
39Finalisation of polling centres list by security 20 April 201920 April 2019 1
40Establishment of media committee1 March 20191 August 2019 154
41Accreditation of observers and candidate agents10 January 201910 May 2019 121
42Publishing final voter list 1 May 20191 May 2019 1
43Generation and printing of ballots- arrival of sensitive material at the IEC1 May 201917 June 2019 48 
44Presidential campaign period19 May 201917 July 2019 60 
45District council and Ghazni WJ campaign period3 July 201917 July 2019 15
46Provincial council campaign period28 June 201917 July 2019 20
47Sensitive material packing18 June 20192 July 2019 14
48Movement of sensitive material from HQ to provincial offices20 June 20194 July  14
49Movement of sensitive material from provincial offices to polling centres4 July 19 July 2019 15
50Silence period18 July 201919 July 2019 2
51Submission of compliants on campaign period19 May 201917 July 2019 60
52Polling daySaturday, 20 July 2019Saturday, 20 July 2019 1
53Recording of challenges about E-day for presidential and provincial elections20 July 201921 July 2019ECC2
54Processing challenges about E-day presidential and provincial, district and Ghazni WJ elections20 July 201921 August 2019ECC33
55ECC submission of final decision22 August 201922 August 2019ECC1
56Tabulation of votes20 July 20199 August 2019 20
57Announcement of presidential preliminary results 10 August 201910 August 2019 1
58Recording of challenges about the preliminary presidential results10 August 201911 August 2019ECC2
59Processing of challenges about the preliminary presidential results10 August 201912 September 2019ECC33
60ECC submission of final decision 13 September 201913 September 2019ECC1
61Announcement of final presidential results14 September 201914 September 2019 1
62Announcement of preliminary provincial and district council and Ghazni WJ results1 September 20191 September 2019 1
63Recording of challenges about the preliminary provincial and district council and Ghazni WJ results2 September 20193 September 2019ECC2
64Processing of challenges about the preliminary provincial and district council and Ghazni WJ results3 September 20195 October 2019ECC33
65ECC submission of final decision6 October 20196 October 2019ECC1
66Announcement of final provincial and district council and Ghazni WJ results 7 October 20197 October 2019 1
67Presidenetial second round (probable) (1)    

Calendar 2: Electoral calendar for the presidential elections – shortened version

 ActivityStartEndDuration
1Voter registration update1 March 201920 March 201920
2Voter registration update Ghazni1 March 201931 March 201931
3Public display of voters list for review for correction1 March 201931 March 201931
4Candidate Nomination Presidential22 December 201920 January 201930
5Publication of preliminary list of candidates5 February 20195 February 20191
6ECC vetting process5 February 201922 March 201946
7ECC submission of decision (s) to IEC23 March 201923 March 20191
8Challenges and appeals to preliminary list of candidates5 February 201922 March 201946
9Candidate withdrawal final date23 March 201923 March 20191
10Ballot lottery 25 March 201925 March 20191
11Publication of final list of candidates26 March 201926 March 20191
12Candidate nomination PC-DC-Ghazni1 March 201915 March 201915
13Publication of preliminary list of candidates22 March 201922 March 20191
14ECC vetting process22 March 20196 May 201946
15ECC submission of decision(s) to IEC29 April 201929 April 20191
16Challenges and appeals to preliminary list of candidates22 March 20196 May 201946
17Candidate withdrawal final date6 May 20196 May 20191
18Ballot lottery 7 May 20197 May 20191
19Publication of final list of candidates7 May 20197 May 20191
20Accreditation of observers and candidate agents10 January 201910 May 2019121
21Publishing final voter list 1 May 20191 May 20191
22Presidential campaign period19 May 201917 July 201960 
23District council and Ghazni WJ campaign period3 July 201917 July 201915
24Provincial council campaign period28 June 201917 July 201920
25Polling daySaturday, 20 July 2019Saturday, 20 July 20191
26Tabulation of votes20 July 20199 August 201920
27Announcement of presidential preliminary results 10 August 201910 August 20191
28Recording of challenges about the preliminary presidential results10 August 201911 August 20192
29Processing of challenges about the preliminary presidential results10 August 201912 September 201933
30ECC submission of final decision 13 September 201913 September 20191
31Announcement of final presidential results14 September 201914 September 20191
32Announcement of preliminary provincial and district council and Ghazni WJ results1 September 20191 September 20191
33Recording of challenges about the preliminary provincial and district council and Ghazni WJ results2 September 20193 September 20192
34Processing of challenges about the preliminary provincial and district council and Ghazni WJ results3 September 20195 October 201933
35ECC submission of final decision6 October 20196 October 20191
36Announcement of final provincial and district council and Ghazni WJ results 7 October 20197 October 20191
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Thematic Category: Political Landscape