Thematic Dossier (XX): Electoral reform and the preparations for the 2018 elections
An Afghan man arrives at a voter registration centre to register for the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections in Kabul, Afghanistan April 23, 2018. Photo: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail.
Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for 20 October this year, three and a half years late. They were delayed so that the electoral system could be reformed – although what that delay achieved in terms of reforms, is questionable. The country’s first district elections are also still scheduled for the same day, although the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has proposed a delay to them and to the Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghazni province. In general, multiple, serious problems are emerging ahead of October’s planned elections, to do with, among other things, insecurity, voter registration, controversies over the two institutions charged with overseeing the vote and, less than three months before the poll, a call by some major political parties to change the election system. Not surprisingly, given the uncertainty over so many aspects of the parliamentary elections, doubts are increasing as to how good and inclusive they can be. To (hopefully) aid understanding, we have gathered together all our reporting on electoral reform and preparations for the 2018 elections since the establishment of the National Unity Government in September 2014 in this new thematic dossier. It is introduced by Ali Yawar Adili (with input from Thomas Ruttig).
With October’s Wolesi Jirga elections, Afghanistan’s third electoral cycle will be completed for three important institutions (the presidency, parliament and provincial councils). The third presidential (together with provincial council) elections were held on 5 April 2014. This poll revealed problems in the election-related institutions and the overall electoral framework, including related legislation.
The 2001 Bonn agreement on Afghanistan had stipulated that presidential and parliamentary elections be held simultaneously, “if possible.” It turned out to be impossible to do so during the very first electoral cycle, planned for 2004 and the presidential election went ahead separately, so there would at least be one achievement the then-United States president George Bush could point to going into his second term election. The first parliamentary elections were delayed for one year, to 2005.
The first-ever district council elections are still scheduled to be held simultaneously with the 2018 parliamentary polls, but now the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has proposed a delay to them and to the Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghazni province. The election of district councillors was supposed to close some of the gaps in the implementation of various election-related requirements in the country’s constitution. These probably will not happen: sufficient candidates have nominated themselves in less than a tenth of Afghanistan’s districts and the IEC has proposed a delay. This would move the district council elections to April 2019 when presidential and provincial council elections are scheduled, further complicated what should be the start of Afghanistan’s fourth electoral cycle.
The three and half year delay of the parliamentary elections means that, for the first time since the overthrow of the Taleban regime in 2001 and Afghanistan’s embarking on a road toward democracy, the country is completing one electoral cycle (its third) while the next, (the fourth) is about to start. The next presidential elections have been scheduled for 20 April 2019, and it is foreseeable that the aftermath of the parliamentary poll – counting, adjudication and dealing with complaints – will crash into the start of preparations for the presidential and other elections. The delays and the problems resulting from this will likely mirror a significant drop in the quality of the Afghan elections and flag severe shortcomings in Afghanistan’s aspiring democracy.
69 days ahead of elections day, there are any number of unresolved issues to do with the parliamentary elections. These are highlighted in the following section, along with some basic facts about the polls. Following that, we have listed dispatches, splitting them into two sections: A preparations for upcoming presidential and district council elections, and B efforts at electoral reform. We fully expect to be updating this dossier as we post new publications in the run-up to the elections.
The 20 October 2018 elections
Voter registration and electoral system
The head of IEC field operations, Zmarai Qalamyar, on 8 August, gave AAN a precise breakdown of voter registration. He said 9,072,208 had registered – 5,783,037 (63.7%) men, 3,114,942 (34.3%) women and, as separately registered groups, 173,646 (1.9%) Kuchi (nomads) and 583 (0.006%) Hindu and Sikh voters. As of 8 August, the details of more than 3.5 million registered voters have been entered into the IEC’s database, according to IEC chairman Gula Jan Abdul Badi Sayyad. The IEC is currently working to input the remaining registered voters into its central database, before it verifies and approves the final voter list.
AAN’s conversations with national and international election experts show that the IEC’s database can only detect two types of fraudulent voter registration: underage voter registration and multiple or duplicate registration using the same tazkera (national ID) with the same serial number. However, it cannot discover multiple registrations with fake tazkeras which have different serial numbers; these can only be identified by cross-checking with the database of the Afghanistan Central Civil Registration Authority (ACCRA). This understanding was confirmed by Sayed Ibrahim Sadat, the head of the IEC’s IT department, on 6 August, as reported by Tolonews (see here).
To achieve this goal, Sayyad said that the IEC planned to establish a technical joint committee with ACCRA to identify fake tazkeras used in the voter registration. This means that the committee will cross-check the tazkeras used for registration with the ACCRA database. However, the question is whether ACCRA has a credible database for the paper tazkeras and whether there is enough time to ascertain more than the nine million tazkeras. Therefore, it is likely that that many instances of fraudulent voter registration using fake tazkiras may not be unearthed.
Many political parties (1) are questioning the voter registration and said that biometric voter registration should have been undertaken from the start. In addition to this, they have two additional demands: changing the current electoral system, Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV), into a system called Multi-Dimensional Representation (MDR) and allowing parties to have an observation room within the IEC to observe preparations for the elections. A joint committee of representatives of political parties, the government and the IEC led by second Vice-President Sarwar Danesh have been discussing these demands in five rounds of meetings, with the first one held on 28 July (see here). On 1 August, the committee held a technical meeting (see here) in which, according to a source from Danesh’s office, a German company called Dermalog had a presentation on the use of “biometric technology,” this less than three months ahead of the poll.
In its last meeting on 5 August, the committee could not agree to the parties’ demands. According to Danesh’s media office, the committee concluded that the government “had stressed the use of biometric technology in elections more than any other organisation in the past. Now if the IEC agrees, the government does not have any problem [with it] and the government also calls on the IEC to pave the way for using this technology in the [next] presidential elections.”
With respect to the parties’ demand to change SNTV into MDR, the vice-president’s media office reported that the committee had concluded that this proposal “in addition to the time constraints, has its own complexity and, thus, requires a broad national debate. Even if this proposal could be passed through a presidential legislative decree, it might still be rejected by the parliament. Therefore, the best way is that the [next] Afghan parliament [should] decide about changing the electoral system.”Since then, the political groups have been saying they will not accept the results of the elections held using the current manual voter registration and in the absence of any change to the electoral system (see this Khabarnama report quoting Anwarul Haq Ahadi, head of the New National Front of Afghanistan). Jamiat-e Islami member Nur Rahman Akhlaqi also told AAN on 9 August that the parties were considering not allowing the elections to be held using the manual voter registration. Any hardening of positions by these political parties could, of course, adversely impact the poll.
The IEC is lagging behind in the 2018 elections’ electoral calendar which sets specific deadlines for various important activities. The calendar specified 30 June to 2 July as the timeframe for addressing the complaints against the preliminary candidates’ list; the IEC should have published the final list on 3 August. However, it was only on 4 August that the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) announced it had disqualified 25 candidates for having links to illegal armed groups. It gave two days, as per the electoral law, to these candidates to appeal against the ECC decision. That meant that, on 8 August, the ECC was still holding an open session to address the appeals of the disqualified candidates (see here).
The Ghazni problem
In late July, the IEC proposed a postponement of both the Wolesi Jirga and district council elections in Ghazni as well as district council elections in the entire country. The IEC reasoned that “serious security situation and other problems” in Ghazni could prevent fair and inclusive representation from the entire province (media report here). It also argued that as only 40 out of Afghanistan’s 387 districts had an adequate number of candidates standing, this render district elections pointless (see media reporting here). In accordance with the electoral law,both proposals have been submitted to a high-ranking committee that has yet to convene. The National Security Council (NSC), whose members are part of the committee, discussed the IEC proposal concerning both district council elections and elections in Ghazni in its 7 August meeting. According to a report on the website on the presidential palace, the NSC, after “detailed discussions, decided that technical and practical studies and consultation were needed in this regard and asked the IEC to present a report on specific and practical alternatives in this regard for the necessary decision-making.”
The presidential election
During the 1 August press conference, the IEC also announced 31 Hamal 1398 (20 April 2019) as the date for the next presidential and provincial council elections. A day before, on 31 July, the IEC held a consultative meeting with the ECC leadership, representatives of political parties, civil society and international organisations where they discussed this date in terms of “operational, financial and administrative, security as well as climate aspects.” The IEC reported that a “majority” of the participants had agreed with the 20 April 2019 date.
The announcement of the presidential election date has been made well ahead of the legal deadline. 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. This means that the next election should be held 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 are 22 September to 22 November to announce the date and 22 October 2018 to 22 December 2018 to publish the election calendar.
However, the early announcement of the date by the IEC was made in response to a call by the President Ghani. On 22 July, during a meeting in the Palace with the IEC members, the United Nations and the European Union special representatives and a number of ambassadors of countries supporting the elections, the president asked the IEC to “set thepresidential election date and share it with the people as soon as possible.” UNAMA welcomed the announcement as “an important moment for democracy in Afghanistan.” However, some election observers called the IEC’s announcement of the date “a rush.” Executive director of Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) Yusuf Rashid told the media on 1 August that either the date would be missed or the elections would be held [on 20 April 2019] [but with] a myriad of problems. “We are worried about the consequences of the next [presidential] elections,” he said.
The IEC during its 1 August press conference called for the “cooperation of the international community and the government in funding the next presidential election and ensuring its security.” This call for cooperation came a few days after UNAMA had announced on 25 July that “at the third project board meeting to support the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections, a new agreement was signed to enable enhanced contributions to Afghanistan’s electoral budget” and “[d]onors pledged to fund an additional US$57 million to the elections budget, in addition to pledging ongoing assistance to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC).” (UNAMA press release here) and media reporting here.)
More than three years for reform
AAN has covered attempts at and discussions of electoral reform extensively. There was an opportunity of more than three years for reform, but little was done. During this period, AAN’s reporting particularly featured the NUG leaders’ wrangling over the establishment of the Special Electoral Reform Commission (SERC), which had been envisaged in the NUG’s 2014 political deal; the SERC’s discussions and recommendations for electoral reform; parliament’s rejection of presidential legislative decrees that had adopted some of SERC’s recommendations and finally; changes to the electoral law which were endorsed by legislative decree and the appointment of new electoral commissioners for the IEC and the ECC. All of this is covered by AAN’s dispatches under section
(1) Following is a list of 21 parties that first coalesced around the demand in February 2018. Since then, they claim that the number has increased up to 35 (see here).
- [Hezb-e] Eqtedar-e Melli
- Afghan Mellat
- [Hezb-e] Paiwand-e Melli
- Jabha-ye Nawin-e Melli Afghanistan
- Jabha-ye Nejat-e Melli Afghanistan
- Jamiat-e Islami Afghanistan
- Jombesh-e Melli Islami Afghanistan
- Herasat-e Islami Afghanistan [previously known as Hezb-e Wahdat-e Melli Islami-ye Afghanistan]
- Harakat-e Islami Afghanistan
- Harakat-e Islami-ye Mutahed Afghanistan
- Harakat-e Enqelab-e Islami Mardom-e Afghanistan
- Hezb-e Islami Afghanistan [both Hekmatyar and Arghanidwal factions]
- Hezb-e Islami-ye Mutahed Afghanistan
- Hezb-e Etedal-e Afghanistan
- [Hezb-e] Haq wa Adalat
- Rawand-e Hefazat az Arzeshha-ye Jihad wa Muqawamat
- Hezb-e Qeyam-e Melli Afghanistan
- Mahaz-e Melli Islami Afghanistan
- Nahzat-e Hambastagi-ye Melli Afghanistan
- [Hezb-e] Wahdat-e Islami Afghanistan
- [Hezb-e] Wahdat-e Islami Mardom-e Afghanistan
A. Preparations for upcoming presidential and district council elections
1. Afghanistan Elections Conundrum (21): Biometric verification likely to spawn host of new problems
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 19 October 2018
Tomorrow’s parliamentary vote will use biometric voter verification machines, the first time ever in an Afghan election. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has said the use of these machines in every polling station will boost transparency and deter fraud. Yet questions abound. The decision was made at the last minute and because of political pressure. There are concerns that the system can trace fraud, but not prevent it, and that its linking of (encrypted) voter data to ballot papers raises questions about the secrecy of the vote. The IEC, in the meantime, seems mainly to have been preoccupied with the logistical task of actually receiving and shipping the devices to the provinces. On the eve of the election, AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili, lays out the new procedures and delves into the host of new problems which the new system could spawn (with input from Martine van Bijlert).
2. Afghanistan Elections Conundrum (20): Women candidates going against the grain
Author: Jelena Bjelica and Rohullah Sorush
Date: 19 October 2018
On 20 October, more than 400 female candidates will compete for the 68 parliamentary seats reserved for women. Many more women – there are over three million registered female voters – will cast their votes on Saturday, in an attempt to have their say on who represents them in the lower house of the parliament. AAN’s Jelena Bjelica and Rohullah Sorush have been looking back at women’s political participation in earlier decades and hearing from female candidates in Afghanistan about running for office despite threats, campaigning (in some places) despite having to wear a burqa, and being told by men that it is a sin to vote for a woman.
3. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (19): A young ‘wave of change’ for the Wolesi Jirga?
Author: Thomas Ruttig and AAN Team
Date: 18 October 2018
Afghanistan’s parliamentary election campaign ended on Wednesday 17 October 2018 with the killing of Helmand candidate Jabbar Qahraman by a mine explosion in his campaign office – the fifth candidate killed during the campaign period. “Taghir” – change – has been a key word in many of the campaigns and a hope expressed by many voters, even though the slogans were rarely backed by detailed political programmes. Among the 2565 candidates running countrywide – 418 of them women according to IEC figures – there are many new faces, alongside a majority of the sitting MPs. Thomas Ruttig and the AAN team look at the spectrum of candidates and ponder what the turnover in the Wolesi Jirga might be (without claiming to be complete or exhaustive).
4. Afghanistan Elections Conundrum (18): A lively election campaign amid growing insecurity in Herat
Author: S Reza Kazemi
Date: 15 October 2018
There is a vibrant electoral atmosphere in Herat city and nearby district centres. Rival political forces have brought supporters onto the streets to show their power and candidates have opened campaign headquarters and engaged in a range of heated campaign activities. In the midst of the bustle, there are also concerns over a series of small-scale bombings and the arrival of tens of thousands of internally displaced families – whose presence may have repercussions for the elections. Moreover, the farther you go from the city and nearby district centres, the more insecurity grows and the election campaign diminishes. AAN researcher Said Reza Kazemi writes from Herat city that deteriorating security poses serious questions about how many voters will be able to get to the polls on 20 October and therefore how representative the election can be.
5. Afghanistan Elections Conundrum (17): Voters disenfranchised in Faryab
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 12 October 2018
Almost two-thirds of voters in Faryab will not be able to vote in the 20 October parliamentary elections after insecurity prevented them from registering. Since voter registration ended in early July, the government has seen an even further loss of control and more than a dozen additional polling centres have since closed. AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili recently visited Faryab and (with input from Kate Clark) wonders how inclusive an election is possible in a province now largely controlled or threatened by the Taleban. He also reports concerns that because of insecurity in this Uzbek-majority province, they will have a much smaller ‘vote bank’ and less clout in next year’s presidential elections. (A breakdown showing Faryab’s polling centres and registered voters can be read in an annex.)
6. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (16): Basic facts about the parliamentary elections
Author: Thomas Ruttig and AAN Team
Date: 9 October 2018
Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has posted a clock on its home page that counts down the time remaining until the 20 October parliamentary election (minus Ghazni province). That’s a nice gag. It would also have been good if a counter had been provided to show, for example, the total number of registered voters (on its Dari page) or the total number of candidates. In both cases, readers need to add the figures themselves. These examples are only a few that show how the IEC does not make it easy to follow the electoral process. Therefore, AAN co-director Thomas Ruttig, with input from the AAN team, has compiled some basic facts about the Afghan elections.
7. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (14): District council and Ghazni parliamentary elections quietly dropped
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 26 September 2018
It has emerged that, without any announcement or formal decision taken, district council elections and Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghazni will not be taking place as planned on 20 October. A special committee of senior government officials had been tasked in early August to rule on an IEC proposal to delay both elections. It has not done so. Meanwhile, the IEC has simply excluded both elections from its preparations. As AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili reports, the disregard for legal procedures obscures the ‘electoral landscape’, fostering an environment where anything, it seems, can be dropped or added at anytime.
8. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (13): New voter registry too good to be true
By: Scott Worden
28 August 2018
One of the main goals of Afghanistan launching a new voter registration process – a key provision of the 2014 National Unity Government Agreement – was to more accurately match the number of ballot papers to the number of voters in any given area. It was hoped this would reduce the opportunities for ballot stuffing. However, a review of the registration statistics released by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) – disaggregated by province and by gender – reveal suspicious anomalies. Further vetting of the voter lists and targeted audits of suspicious areas are needed, says guest author Scott Worden,* to address rising doubts about the integrity of Afghanistan’s voter lists.
9. The Afghanistan Election Conundrum (12): Good news and bad news about district numbers
By: Thomas Ruttig
16 August 2018
Afghan authorities have solved one of the most long-standing and consequential problems in the country‘s complex election system: the number of districts. It is 387. This is pending a final decision by parliament, as there are some so-called ‘temporary’ districts that could boost the number. If parliament takes this issue up, however, there is a chance that it throws this hard-won unanimity over board again. This is because the number of districts is not just an administrative matter but also one of resources and influence. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig (with input from Ali Yawar Adili) have looked at the figures, what they mean and what questions are still open.
10. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (11): Electoral reform and the preparations for the 2018 elections – a summary
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 10 August 2018
Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for 20 October this year, three and a half years late. They were delayed so that the electoral system could be reformed – although what that delay achieved in terms of reforms, is questionable. The country’s first district elections are also still scheduled for the same day, although the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has proposed a delay to them and to the Wolesi Jirga elections in Ghazni province. In general, multiple, serious problems are emerging ahead of October’s planned elections, to do with, among other things, insecurity, voter registration, controversies over the two institutions charged with overseeing the vote and, less than three months before the poll, a call by some major political parties to change the election system. Not surprisingly, given the uncertainty over so many aspects of the parliamentary elections, doubts are increasing as to how good and inclusive they can be. To (hopefully) aid understanding, we have gathered together all our reporting on electoral reform and preparations for the 2018 elections since the establishment of the National Unity Government in September 2014 – here the introduction to this new thematic dossier by Ali Yawar Adili (with input from Thomas Ruttig).
11. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (10): Failure to hold the first ever district council elections?
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 7 August 2018
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has proposed a delay in the district council elections, citing a lack of candidates. According to a report from the body, only a tenth of the country’s districts have enough male and female candidates to compete. The IEC listed several reasons as to why so few people wanted to stand: insecurity, lack of a legal framework, a requirement on educational qualifications that was too stringent, lack of clarity on salaries and benefits for councillors and, in rural areas, an unfavourable ‘cultural context’. In this, the latest dispatch in his series on the preparations for Afghanistan’s elections, AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili assesses these reasons and points also to a hostility towards district council elections from within the state from the outset.
12. The Afghanistan Election Conundrum (9): The 2010 Ghazni spectre rears its head again
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 5 July 2018
Protests continue in front of the Independent Election Commission’s office in Ghazni, though it was able to reopen on 27 June following a 63-day sit-in protest at its gates that shut it down, stymying election preparations throughout the province. This comes despite the IEC’s legally problematic about-face to split Ghazni province’s electoral constituencies for the upcoming polls, according to the protestors’ wish. Protests are now taking place over the issue of which areas will be allocated to the new constituencies while others deem the split to be illegal. The original protest was motivated by the outcome of the 2010 parliamentary elections, when all seats in the province went to Hazaras following a low Pashtun turnout. AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili looks at Ghazni’s protestors’ demands as well as the IEC’s reactions to them, and concludes that both the government and the IEC face a dilemma about how to hold an inclusive election.
13. The Afghanistan Election Conundrum (8): Controversies over voter registration
Author: Ali Yawar Adili and Thomas Ruttig
Date: 27 May 2018
As the Independent Election Commission (IEC) struggles to prepare for parliamentary and district council elections due to be held on 20 October 2018, one key prerequisite – voter registration – is not going well. Registration turnout, so far, has been very low, in part, due to security fears stemming from a new system aimed at reducing fraud: fixing stickers onto Identification cards after voters have registered. The problem is that the Taleban then know, who has registered. A proposal to increase turnout by fixing stickers to a copy of people’s IDs, has proved controversial and led to an open dispute between President Ashraf Ghani and two members of the IEC on the one hand, and the majority of IEC members and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on the other. The proposal has subsequently been rescinded. Yet, say AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili and Thomas Ruttig, it has left a strong impression of chaos and lack of forethought. This dispatch also examines the debacle surrounding the appointment of a new chief electoral officer and translates the newly-published electoral calendar into English.
14. The Afghanistan Election Conundrum (7): A deficient polling centre assessment
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 16 April 2018
A fundamental question ahead of any Afghan election is where polling centres are located. In the past, they have been located in ways that deliberately disenfranchised some voters. New regulations designed to prevent this are aimed at making sure locations are ‘balanced’, ie there are now strict criteria which should ensure centres are near voters, their number is proportional to the local population and they are not sited in insecure areas. Given how vulnerable this aspect of Afghan elections is to manipulation, the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) assessment of polling centres is crucial to the credibility of the forthcoming provincial and district elections (now scheduled for 20 October 2018). Here, AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili takes a close look at the IEC’s assessment and examines the doubts which have surrounded its findings.
15. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (6): Another new date for elections
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 12 April 2018
The Independent Election Commission has set 20 October 2018 as the new date for Afghanistan’s parliamentary and district council elections. This comes after two earlier dates were missed. The Commission has also announced that it will start to register voters on Saturday, 14 April 2018. As AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili reports, though, the later date for the elections is problematic. Some areas could already be seeing heavy snowfall. It also means parliamentary and district elections would be held just seven months before the presidential poll is due, risking electoral congestion and political chaos.
16. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (5): A late demand to change the electoral system
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 8 March 2018
A group of influential political parties have called for a change to the electoral system. This emerged out of the ongoing dispute between one of the parties, predominantly Tajik Jamiat-e Islami, and the presidential palace over the contested dismissal of Balkh Governor Atta Muhammad Nur. The group wants political parties to have a greater role in elections. Previous attempts at getting this have failed due to a lack of consensus, and the electoral system remained unchanged. Moreover, this new attempt at changing the electoral system has come very late. AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili takes a close look at the political parties’ demand and its impact on preparations for the upcoming elections (with input from Thomas Ruttig).
17. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (4): New controversies surrounding the appointment of a new electoral commissioner
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 18 January 2018
The need to appoint a new member of the IEC came after its chairman, Najibullah Ahmadzai, was sacked by President Ashraf Ghani on 15 November 2017. The president ordered the Selection Committee, a body responsible for shortlisting candidates for membership of the IEC and ECC, to be reconvened. The body shortlisted three candidates, from which a panel, including the president, chose its favourite on 13 January 2018. AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili looks at the controversy surrounding this selection, and asks what happens next.
18. The Afghanistan Election Conundrum (3): The dilemma of electoral constituencies
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 17 December 2017
It looks increasingly unlikely that the next parliamentary (and district council) elections can be held as planned on 7 July 2018. Although the Independent Election Commission (IEC) continues its preparations for the polls, important questions remain unresolved. Due to a lack of consensus, the electoral system remains unchanged, but the IEC has been grappling with the question of whether to stick to the old electoral constituencies or to divide them. The IEC has submitted its proposal on electoral constituencies to the cabinet, but no decision has yet been taken. AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili takes a close look at the IEC’s proposal and the impact of the government’s indecision.
19. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (2): A tight date and a debate about technology
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 28 November 2017
The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) has announced 7 July 2018 as the date for the next parliamentary (and district councils) elections. It has started the preparations for the elections, but has been grappling with a lack of clarity about the budget and decisions about the use of technology in the elections. These issues have already dimmed the chance that elections can be held on schedule. AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili looks at the issues with the budget and controversy around the use of technology, as the IEC is already contemplating fallback date. (With a postscript about the selection process for a new IEC chairman by Thomas Ruttig.)
20. Afghanistan Election Conundrum (1): Political pressure on commissioners puts 2018 vote in doubt
Author: Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 18 November 2017
While struggling to prepare for the parliamentary (and supposedly also district council) elections scheduled for the 7 July 2018, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) are finding themselves under increasing fire from a growing number of political groups and election observer bodies. There have been allegations of financial corruption, government interference and divisions within the two commissions. Playing upon these issues, political groups are demanding that all the electoral commissioners be sacked and replaced with new ones. In a move possibly intended to alleviate the pressure, President Ghani has now sacked the chair of the IEC. AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili considers these demands and what they might mean for the credibility of the elections and the likelihood of them happening on time.
B. Efforts at electoral reform
1. Afghanistan’s Incomplete New Electoral Law: Changes and controversies
Author: Ali Yawar Adili and Martine van Bijlert
Date: 22 January 2017
Afghanistan’s new electoral law has come into force, which means that the requirement of electoral reform ahead of the next elections has – at least nominally – been met. AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili and Martine van Bijlert discuss the main features of the new law and note that the most controversial and complicated changes have been passed on to the Independent Election Commission to decide on. These include, most prominently, an instruction to decrease the size of the electoral constituencies for the parliamentary and provincial council elections, which could usher in an overhaul of the electoral system. This will be a politically fraught exercise, which will pave the way for a new round of bickering and delay. It also threatens to drag the newly established commission into political controversy.
2. Update on Afghanistan’s Electoral Process: Electoral deadlock broken – for now
Author: Ali Yawar Adili and Martine van Bijlert
Date: 18 December 2016
Afghanistan’s electoral reform process, a major part of the National Unity Government’s programme, has been slow and painful with its high stakes and divided government positions. But over the last few months two significant hurdles have been taken: the new electoral law has finally been passed, and the new electoral commissions have been appointed. Although the commissions are ready to start planning the country’s overdue parliamentary and district council elections, the problems that have long held back the electoral process are far from resolved. In particular, the questions of what electoral system to employ and how to organise voting have now been passed on to the IEC to grapple with. AAN’s Martine van Bijlert and Ali Yawar Adili answer key questions on where we are now.
3. Another hurdle for elections in 2016: MPs reject presidential decree on electoral commissions
Author: Ali Yawar Adili, Salima Ahmadi, Lenny Linke and Kate Clark
Date: 17 June 2016
Had MPs approved the presidential legislative decree ‘reforming’ the electoral commissions, Afghanistan would now be significantly closer to holding parliamentary and district elections. (And the National Unity Government could have claimed to be pushing forward on electoral reform, something required by the agreement that established it.) However, after three days of ill-mannered discussion, MPs roundly rejected the decree. AAN’s Salima Ahmadi, Ali Yawar Adili, Lenny Linke and Kate Clark report on what happened and why – and what could happen next.
4. Pushing the Parliament to Accept a Decree: Another Election without Reform?
Author: Martine van Bijlert and Ali Yawar Adili
Date: 10 June 2016
Afghanistan’s electoral reform process, that was supposed to be a precondition for the next ballot, has been excruciatingly slow and has culminated in a watered-down version of its original mandate. The delays mean that it has by now become practically impossible to hold elections this year. The presidential palace, however, continues to insist that both elections – for Wolesi Jirga and district councils – will take place in mid-October, as planned, and has increased pressure on parliament to pass a crucial decree. AAN’s Martine van Bijlert and Ali Yawar Adili take a closer look at the intricacies involved, as the parliament prepares to discuss the decree.
5. The IEC Announces 2016 Election Date – but what about electoral reform?
Author: Martine van Bijlert
Date: 18 January 2016
In a brief press conference on Monday 18 January 2016, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced the date for Afghanistan’s next vote: 15 October 2016. But the preparations for the elections – for the lower house of parliament and, for the first time, district councils – are complicated by ongoing controversies over the legitimacy of the current IEC, the nature of the electoral reforms that need to precede the elections, as well as who will be organising them and under which amended laws. AAN’s Martine van Bijlert takes a closer look.
6. Electoral Reform, or rather: Who will control Afghanistan’s next election?
Author: Martine van Bijlert
Date: 17 February 2015
President Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah, in the September 2014 agreement, agreed to electoral reforms “to ensure that future elections are credible.” The details of these reforms, when they should take place and who should design them are, however, proving contentious. Meanwhile, parliament has been working on relevant laws, while commissioners of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) are fighting off calls for them to be replaced while insisting that, at this point, they are the only ones who should be making changes to improve future elections. Although everyone is talking about ‘reform’, the wrangling really boils down to a struggle for control of the electoral bodies and, ultimately, the outcome of upcoming elections. AAN’s Martine van Bijlert and Ehsan Qaane report.
7. Elections in Hibernation: Afghanistan’s stalled electoral reform
Author: Ehsan Qaane and Martine van Bijlert
Date: 17 June 2015
Afghanistan’s electoral reform process has been bogged down for months. While the National Unity Government agreement called for the “immediate establishment” of an Electoral Reform Commission, it took the president five months just to sign the necessary decree. Now, three months later, the commission has still not started its work and it looks like the original decree will be overturned and a new commission introduced, amidst controversy over who was appointed and what they were mandated to do. Meanwhile, the absence of an electoral timeline or any planning for the upcoming elections has led donors to decrease funding for the Independent Electoral Commission, until they receive clarity on what they will be paying for. Although the palace has now indicated that an announcement of an election date may be imminent, the lack of urgency on the part of the government is notable. AAN’s Ehsan Qaane and Martine van Bijlert take a closer look at the details and explore what the possible explanations might be.
8. After the Election Is Before the Election: The dilemma with the 2015 parliamentary vote date
Author: Ehsan Qaane and Thomas Ruttig
Date: 19 November 2014
The Afghan constitution stipulates that the next parliamentary elections must be held before June 2015. Until a few days ago, however, most Afghan and international actors seem to have tacitly agreed that the constitutional date cannot be met. But during a conference on 16 November, the new president’s legal advisor stated that Ashraf Ghani is committed to upholding the constitution and with that the constitutional election date. AAN’s Thomas Ruttig and Ehsan Qaane look at the pros and cons of holding the elections on time, identify a number of significant hurdles – including the shortage of time for preparation caused by the unexpectedly long 2014 elections process and the need for electoral reform – but add that one more factor needs to be figured in: delaying the elections would mean bending the constitution another time.