WASHINGTON DC, Oct 2, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Afghan women line up to vote. Below: Counting of votes

Faulty Afghan Elections are Still a Step Forward

By Aarya Nijat
Special to the South Asia Tribune

KABUL, Afghanistan, October 2: Millions of Afghan men and women traveled to polling stations across the country on September 18 to vote in Afghanistan’s historical parliamentary elections. Some 12.5 million registered voters were to proceed to polling centers to vote for their legislature for the first time in more than 35 years.

Despite security threats and concerns, fortunately, the overall state of affairs remained peaceful and orderly. This itself was an indicator of political awareness of Afghan people and their across-the-board political participation. They made a record during the October 2004 Presidential Elections which, however, was not refreshed this time.

Two simultaneous elections in 34 provinces for Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of National Assembly) and Provincial Council were carried out where 2,753 candidates for 249 Wolesi Jirga seats and 3,013 candidates contested for 420 Provincial Council seats. 12 per cent of Wolesi Jirga and 8.1 per cent of Provincial Council candidates were women. Women have 68 seats reserved for them in the Wolesi Jirga.

This is considered to be one the greatest achievements of the governmental institution in Afghanistan; however, it cannot guarantee women’s rights and human rights under warlords.

The overall analysis of election particularly in comparison to the Presidential Elections yielded somewhat mixed results. The turnout was less than expected. However, as mostly understood, the reasons were not the threats and intimidation posed by Taliban and their terrorist brethren. There were several other reasons for the end result. Taliban’s terrorization can be one valid reason in some of the areas, mostly in the far located districts, however for the rest of the country this was not the case.

The presence of warlords with their enormous capital and extravagantly carried out election campaigns can be held responsible as one of the major reasons. The people of Afghanistan could not see the reflection of the real representatives of their country in these candidates and so were not enthusiastic about voting.

Besides the warlords and their brethren such as Sayyaf, Qanuni and others, upper and upper- middle class candidates like Ghafar Dawi were also competing, who as one single example of this bloc, besides other holdings, owns more than 15 trading companies. Sources reveal that the electoral operating expenses of some of these candidates crossed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Dawi and candidates like him could in no way represent the general mass of population of any of Afghanistan’s provinces.

There was another group of candidates who from the beginning had the realization that their chances of scoring a win were negligible. But they took part in the elections only to put on name and fame. Besides they expected bargains to take place which didn’t happen as such. Bargains do not happen in such uncertain conditions.

Another rationale for the low turn out is the truth that the people of Afghanistan feel let down. They put faith and had hope that the Karzai Administration would herald the beginning of the end of warlordism and will secure peace and harmony. Consequently, they wholeheartedly took part in the Presidential Elections and elected him as their President.

However, Karzai failed in fulfilling the promises he made to the people. This obviously drove the people to the conclusion that the lower ranks are no good than the higher. This came as the finale of Karzai Administration in the eyes of Afghan people who have suffered so much and can bear no more. Will the Parliamentary candidates come up to their expectations? Not a chance, more than ever when the promises made were too good to be fulfilled.

On the other hand, there were some candidates like Bashar Dost who competed successfully and are expected to win with the vote of the people, without lavish expenses. This indicates that the judgment of Afghan people is based on numerous values and they have realized the importance their vote carries and the critical role it plays in determining the future of the country and their own fate.

According to an estimate some 20 to 25 per cent of people have voted with awareness. And the most important of all is the fact that masses never committed to any one. This shows that they, at the last instance, made their mind to keep their right with them, the right to decide.

There is one example worth mentioning. Sayed Ali Javed who was the ex Minister for Planning and Transport was rejected by the people of Sholgara District in Balkh Province. He gave his best to attract the Shia community in that province but failed. The people of the district supported an Engineer who was imprisoned under the Soviets. He was a person of limited means and even had no money to print his posters. The people established a committee and contributed for his electoral expenses.

Warlords gave it their best to mould the situation in their own favor, which didn’t work that way. Mujadidi, who is the chairman of the “Commission on National Reconciliation”, on behalf of the government, even invited Mullah Umar and Gulbadin Hekmatyar to join the “National Reconciliation” which was later invalidated by the government authorities.

According to the report submitted by the “Independent Commission of Human Rights” and UNAMA, ‘16 per cent of Parliamentary candidates are either the commanders themselves or their stooges and 4 per cent of them shall – as soon as possible – undergo disarmament for the reason that they pose the greatest danger to the security during polling and not the “terrorists”.’ However, the report, despite the initial loud propaganda could achieve nothing and the commanders made their way easily to the elections.

The new parliament will not be some thing more than a caricature of democracy. It will be used as a means for legitimization of the crimes committed by the Northern Alliance commanders. They may act more savagely; for they will be handed over the license to kill, as “Elected Representatives of the People."

The new Parliament is going to be mostly populated by the warlords though it still is a step forward.

The writer is a free lance contributor with independent views

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