The long-awaited Afghan presidential elections are slated to be held on September 28, 2019. The government has shown complete preparedness to conduct transparent, inclusive and comprehensive elections on the scheduled date, but the peace talks between the United States and the Taliban representatives in Qatar have spread uncertainty over the upcoming elections.
The US started negotiations with the Taliban representatives a year back to find a political settlement to the protracted conflict in Afghanistan, but US President Donald Trump abruptly canceled the talks with the Taliban in response to a deadly Taliban attack in Kabul in which an American soldier was killed including several Afghan civilians. The question arises, will the peace talks be resumed again and what effects will the talks have on elections?
Now, people and presidential hopefuls are doubtful whether the elections will be held or not on the prescribed date. Presidential hopefuls Hanif Atmar and Ibrahim Alokozai already halted their election campaign. The Taliban also warned it could to disrupt the elections and considered it as a western ploy and big hurdle for peace.
The Taliban accused the Afghan government of creating barriers in the path of peace by holding elections and warned that they will target elections campaign rallies and make all out efforts to distort the democratic process. The Taliban urged people to abandon elections. Security threats are in place which discourages people not to take part in the upcoming presidential elections, however, many polling centers are closed due to security threats in the far-flung areas which are under the control of the Taliban.
As such, the government has not been able to secure a peaceful climate for voters to elect their favorite candidate. Despite fears of attacks and intimidation by insurgents the people of Afghanistan braved every sort of threats and went to the polling stations to exercise their democratic rights in the previous Parliamentary and presidential elections. Elections hopefuls cannot hold their campaign rallies to explain their plans and programs to the public due to the enormous security challenges.
The government announced that it devised a security strategy for the safety of election hopefuls and to ensure the security of their elections rallies, by providing armored vehicles and guards for their protection. elections hopefuls denied that they have not received any help from government in this regard.
There are also concerns over the transparency of the upcoming elections, election hopefuls accused government over the recent high appointments for campaign purposes, Shahab Hakimi presidential nominee accused the government over the appointment of provincial commissioners, Hakimi said the provincial commissioners would declare the incumbent president as victorious in the provinces.
The previous Parliamentary elections were mismanaged and marred by fraud, which created dissatisfaction and concerns among people and election hopefuls. Some candidates did not accept the result and charged the election commission of committing fraud, mishandling elections and corruption.
There were also reports of government’s interference in the previous parliamentary elections. Even president Ashraf Ghani considered the Parliamentary elections as a tragedy and related the elections failure to the elections commission inability.
There are also concerns that the fate of the forthcoming presidential elections would be similar to that of the fraudulent 2014 presidential elections that led to an electoral crisis and eventually the creation of the national unity government by the mediation of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Interference by elections hopefuls and outsiders will make elections more fraudulent this time. It would be better for government, elections commission, presidential hopefuls and foreigners to coordinate their efforts to avoid possible fraud in elections.
Other issues that will make elections more problematic are the malfunction of biometric devices, untimely transferring of elections materials to polling centers and mismanagement of candidates and voters list. The Afghan government and election commission need to make all out efforts to properly manage voters list, transfer elections materials on time to the polling centers and take necessary measures for ensuring transparent elections and security of the voters. Th international community’s role is vital to observe elections closely for ensuring better, transparent elections and take essential steps to avoid fraud.