“The President shall be elected by receiving more than fifty percent of votes cast by voters through free, general, secret and direct voting. … If in the first round none of the candidates gets more than fifty percent of the votes, elections for the second round shall be held within two weeks from the date election results are proclaimed, and, in this round, only two candidates who have received the highest number of votes in the first round shall participate. In case one of the presidential candidates dies during the first or second round of voting or after elections, but prior to the declaration of results, re-election shall be held according to provisions of the law.” (Utdrag fra den afghanske grunnloven)1
Afghanistan is experiencing a presidential run-off election for the first time. This means that in the initial April election, no single candidate achieved enough votes to govern, so a second round of voting will be necessary between the two prime candidates who gained the most support first time around. This year´s election is incredibly important for Afghanistan’s future as a fair and free election is the only way to lead Afghanistan towards democracy and civil justice.
This is the only time in our history to date that the Afghan nation is re-electing their president and so now, more than ever, the country needs good governance and rule of law.
On 5th April, Afghans voted for democracy, for a better Afghanistan, for a peaceful country, for equality and prosperity. They also voted to show the world that we are a nation seeking peace and wanting democracy.
This election has been incredibly important because it is the first time in the history of Afghanistan that power is being transferred through a democratic process from one elected president to another.
Despite threats to their safety from extremist groups, Afghans very bravely participated in the election nationwide and so changed history by the power of their votes.
In first round of elections, there were more than 6.6 million voters, but in the second vote it seems that participation will be lower.
This is probably because the first round of presidential elections were held on the same day as provincial council elections, so all local council candidates were campaigning in full force. In addition, many people do not have the same level of enthusiasm now as they had the first time, and may even lack faith in the election process and its commissions.
The run-off will be held between two leading candidates: Abdullah Abdullah, whose motto is “reform and partnership” and Ashraf Ghani who stands for “change and continuity”.
Abdullah secured 45 percent of the vote in the April election, with his main rival Ghani getting 31.6 percent, according to final results announced by the Afghanistan Independence Election Commission (IEC) See reference 2.
Right now, both candidates are trying to secure more votes and so have made new coalitions with former candidates, other political parties and high-profile political figures in Afghanistan.
Many political coalitions during this election were not made according to the constitution´s agreed program and policies, but were agreed verbally with promises of power sharing, saving of businesses and due to politicians’ personal agendas.
Protecting candidates and voters from violence and threats to their livelihood remains a major challenge for Afghanistan. There is no doubt that during this election the Taliban and other insurgent groups have tried to disrupt the voting process and forcibly deter individuals from taking part.
The day after the April election, the Taliban sent emails to the media claiming that polling centers across the country were under heavy attacks.
Almost 14 percent of polling sites in southern and eastern provinces “where the Taliban has power” were not opened, and the Taliban claimed that they staged more than 1,000 attacks throughout the country to prevent people from voting. But the Afghan security forces were well-prepared and maintained effective security so that all Taliban’s efforts failed.
This week, the security for the run-off between the final two presidential candidates has been tightened in the capital and all over the country with every school closed till the day after the election. (Ref3)
Afghan forces announced that they were completely ready to protect the public from the Taliban during the run-off and promised better and more effective security on based their investigations and experience during the first round.
Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country and for the last 13 years the ethnicity issue was a winning card for some politicians whose personal interests did not coincide with those of the nation and best democratic polices.
Afghanistan’s cabinet members and all other high-level official posts are filled mainly from the four biggest ethnic groups: Pashtoon, Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek.
This concept divided the nation according to their ethnic group so that in this election, unfortunately, the issues of ethnicity have been greatly highlighted, diverting attention from the more crucial issues relevant to all citizens: to build a democratic, fair and prosperous nation. Similarly, in the second round of the presidential election, the ethnicity issue is at the forefront for both candidates, each looking for ways to take advantage of their ethnic status to win more votes.
For this reason, it seems that majority of Pashtoon and Uzbek people will vote for Ashraf Ghani while Tajiks and Hazaras will support Abdullah.
The international community have invested billions of dollars and lives to foster the birth of democracy in Afghanistan and the country still depends on international donors’ financial aid.
The relationship between Washington and Kabul hit rock bottom during 2013-2014 when President Karzia refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA).
The anti-American position of Karzai affects Afghanistan’s relationship with NATO and other international alliances.
Meanwhile, both of the remaining presidential candidates have promised to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the USA when they take Office. Importantly, US Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry said: “The United States is ready to work with the next president.”
However, Afghanistan’s next government needs to reform its foreign diplomacy and maintain friendly relations with the international community.
Where do we go from here?
I am writing this article at a time when the campaigns for the presidential run-off have just ended so on Saturday June 14th Afghan people will go to their polling centers to help make this historical decision.
Both of the leading teams have worked hard during their campaign to win the election, the Change and Continuity team organized mobile campaigning (door-to-door and street-based activities) with holding debates to explain their policy programs. This way of campaigning is aimed at getting more support and a higher percentage of votes than during the first round.
The Reform and Partnership team held gatherings and speeches in different provinces while its main rival did the same.
Recent research by Glevum Associates shows that Ashraf Ghani has now taken the lead with a 49% projected vote over Abdullah Abdullah who is only predicted to get 42% for the second round, according to a survey of 2806 Afghans contacted June 3rd to 9th (Ref 4).
Afghans are really looking forward to witnessing the power of their votes even if they do not trust the work of the Independent Election Commission and Election Complaint Commission
Long live Afghanistan!!
1) Afghanistan constitutions, article 61
2) IEC, official announcement of final results
3) official statements of interior and education ministries