Elections in Afghanistan are not a new phenomenon. After three decades of war, Afghans are optimistic for their future. In 2003, they started going to the polling stations and elected the first president of Afghanistan. Their optimism increased, as they went once more to polling stations to elect the first parliament in 30 years.
Even as Afghans have been able to elect their president as well as their parliamentary representatives, they have suffered from an increase of violence, daily insurgent attacks, and widespread corruption in governmental organization as well as in donor agencies. There had been little corruption in Afghanistan after the fall of Taliban and even during the years immediately thereafter, Afghanistan had not been on the list of the most corrupt countries. According to the corruption perception index (CPI) of Transparency International (TI), Afghanistan had initially occupied the 107th position, while the most recent CPI has Afghanistan placed in the second to last position.
Today, the representatives of the Afghan people in parliament are all involved in corruption; they work for their own benefit and not for the people's. As a result, Afghans are losing confidence in their government, and the distance between the public and the government is increasing.
In addition to the high level of corruption in government and non-governmental organizations, Afghans have suffered from the continued and ever stengthening insurgency during the last decade. Al-Qaida and Taliban had been defeated at the end of 2001 when US led coalition forces came to Afghanistan. Roads have been built; bridges, schools, clinics and other foundations have been established, but one matter that has received insufficient attention has been the maintenance of of security and advancement of peace-building in the country. Taliban and Al- Qaida merely left the country in the beginning and began reorganizing in order to launch a major offensive against the Afghans. Subsequently, the insurgency grew in strength and violence increased substantially. Civilians have been targeted by both the insurgents and the coalition forces. Occurences such as the beheading of educated people by the Taliban on the one hand and the bombing and searching of Afghan houses at night on the other, has added to a general feeling of insecurity in Afghanistan.
In 2009, Afghans one more went to the polling stations to elect a president. The 2003 election had been the Afghans' first experience with the electoral process and there was a large participation. By 2009, the number of voters was very limited and the election was fraudulent. Analysts have described these elections as some of the most fraudulent elections in their time. All candidates running for presidency were involved in this fraud. However, Hamid Karzai has won the election and became the president of Afghanistan for a second time, but he failed to win Afghan hearts.
In his inauguration speech, Mr. Karzai promised to root out corruption from Afghan government and insisted on reforms in government organizations as well as in donor agencies. In the first year of his second period in office, he invited elders to Kabul for “Peace Jirga.” He also invited Taliban members and others who accept Afghanistan constitution and break ties with Al-Qaida to come to Afghanistan and take part in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan. Moreover, the Kabul Conference became one of the visible achievements of the new administration.
The question however remains whether Mr. Karzai will succeed in reaching his goals.
One of the greatest challenges facing the Afghan government at present are the parliamentary elections scheduled for 18 September 2010. Elections are ahead in a time where the security situation is at its worst in last nine years. This makes campaigning extremely difficult for the candidates. They cannot campaign in the villages of Afghanistan.
In interviews that I have conducted last week and in my meetings with numberous people in the villages of Afghanistan, ordinary Afghans repeatedly stated that they do not wish to participate in the parliamentary elections. They see no sense in doing so, since they merely want to live peacefully in their villages and homes, while the Afghan government is incapable of protecting them from Taliban. One of the men I interviewed told me that the national police lives barricaded in their district headquarters and refuses to venture beyond. He stated that “last week there was a Taliban attack on one of the villagers, so I called the head of the district police - but he replied that they can’t help us at night and will come only in the morning.”
Afghan police are not capable of guranteeing security during the elections. Nor is the Afghan National Army able to ensure safety in all parts of Afghanistan during the election period. Hence, who will help Afghans participate in the elections? Who will protect those Afghans who live in the villages of Afghanistan and who have been warned by insurgent groups explicitely not to participated in the elections? What will be the role of NATO and coalition forces? Will the elections be fraudulent once again? The Afghan government has set up a commission under the name of Election Complaint Commission to tackle this problem. However, this commission is by no means powerful enough to assure that all complaints are given due consideration. Nevertheless, we hope the elections will be successful elections and Afghans will be able to live in a free and peaceful country.
Niamatullah Sayer is a student in the Master Program at Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt, Germany.
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