Ayesha Chugh | 15 Nov 2012
Earlier this November, Afghanistan’s Independent Elections Commission (IEC) announced the official election date for the country’s presidential elections. Set for April 5, 2014, the elections will end President Hamid Karzai’s two terms in office. Adding further uncertainty to the country’s post-2014 political landscape, the elections will coincide with the NATO troop withdrawal, set to occur as the Taliban wrestle for power.
While we can reflect on the many possible scenarios that may unfold in Afghanistan, the more technical aspects of the upcoming elections are also important to consider. As in any country, the integrity of the election process influences the nature of the political developments that follow. How the presidential election is managed will affect the legitimacy and, by extension, the challenges facing the new administration.
The IEC is Afghanistan’s election management body (EMB). As outlined in the Constitution, the Commission is required to ensure the credibility and transparency of elections in the country. In a press-statement, the IEC released an election timetable for 2014. The key dates are as follows:
1. April 21, 2013: start of voter registration period
2. Sept. 16 – Oct. 6, 2013: candidate nomination/sign-up period
3. Nov. 17, 2013 – April 2, 2014: electoral campaign period
4. April 5, 2014: Election Day
5. April 6 – April 20, 2014: vote tally/counting period
6. April 7 – May 7, 2014: election complaints evaluation period
7. May 17, 2014: final announcement of presidential election results
8. May 28, 2014: potential run-off vote
9. June 7, 2014: final announcement of provincial council election results
With all this being said, a host of challenges exists for a credible and legitimate election. According to an article by Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad, some of these include:
- Questions dealing with electoral legislation, currently pending review by the government;
- A controversy over foreign membership in the Election Complaints Commission (ECC);
- How to ensure that voter registration/voter ID mechanisms are as inclusive as possible, in a country with many social cleavages;
- Preventing local strongmen from interfering in the electoral process.
The issues outlined above are extremely important to ensuring a credible and legitimate election, especially in an institutionally fragile country like Afghanistan. As in many transitional states, multiple interest groups will compete to influence these various issues, in an attempt to create an outcome favorable to their interests.
Additionally, physical safety is a logistical challenge for this election. There is concern that in some regions of the country, environments of physical insecurity might prevent a competitive and fair election, by intimidating voters and limiting turnout. The Taliban is a major obstacle in this respect. As one example, seven people were killed in Taliban attacks near a polling station in northern Afghanistan during the September 2010 parliamentary elections.
The IEC is prepared to offer groups like the Taliban the opportunity to participate in elections as voters and as candidates—but unfortunately this will not guarantee that the group will halt all hostilities. Considering this, political reconciliation with the Taliban might be the only way a truly representative election can occur.
Siham Nuseibeh | 14 Nov 2012
Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been receiving harsh criticism for failing to halt Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. With election season right around the corner, what better kick off than a military offensive? Reports claim that the Prime Minister’s office is preparing international public opinion for a large-scale military offensive against the Gaza Strip. While Likud ministers have been competing over who can be most threatening toward Gaza’s Hamas government, Netanyahu has been conducting hasbara (propaganda) efforts to explain and justify a ground offensive against the Gaza Strip. Unbeknownst to many, over the past 72 hours, Israeli Occupation Forces have escalated their aerial and ground attacks against the Strip killing five Palestinian civilians, including three children, and wounding 52 others. A report explains the horrific event:
“According to investigations conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), at approximately 15:30 on Saturday, 10 November 2012, Israeli military vehicles stationed at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel fired an artillery shell at a number of Palestinian children who were playing football at al-Mentar Hill east of al-Shoja’iya neighborhood, which is east of Gaza City and nearly 1,500 meters away from the border. As a result, 2 children were instantly killed: Mohammed Ussama Hassan Harara (16); and Ahmed Mustafa Khaled Harara (17). Following this attack, a number of Palestinian civilians, who were in the consolation house of the Harara family, rushed to the area, where the IOF immediately fired another 3 shells. As a result, 2 Palestinian civilians were instantly killed.”
It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu can pull off a military offensive after the last devastating invasion of Gaza in 2008, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians. It seems, however, that no expense will be spared for the sake of Netanyahu’s political campaign.