Afghanistan Parliamentary Elections 2018

Global Center Stage By Shruti Singh*

Afghanistan Parliamentary Elections 2018

Ashraf Ghani, will attempt to weaken the alliance by exploiting internal differences through political manoeuvring. Some reports also suggest that he has held talks with Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf, the leader of the Council for Protection and Stability in Afghanistan; Hezb-e Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; Deputy CEO Mohammad Mohaqiq; CEO Abdullah Abdullah; and Hazara Hizb-e Wahdat leader Karim Khalili to introduce a counter-alliance called ‘The Council of Elders’.

The Afghanistan government finally held parliamentary elections on 20 October, after a long-delay of more than three years. A total 2,565 candidates out of which 417 are women, campaigned for 250 seats in the Wolesi Jirga (lower house). While the Taliban urged voters to boycott the elections and continue to carry out hundreds of deadly attacks against security forces, election candidates, staff and voters. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) had previously announced that only 4,530 polling centres, out of 7,355 were open due to imminent security threats.

The election process also experienced chaotic delays caused by technical and logistical challenges - polling was extended till 21 October in some districts. In Kandhar, the voting took place a week later (on 27 October) due to security concerns after a major insider attack during US-Afghan intelligence meeting, in which the province’s police chief, General Abdul Raziq, was killed.

Elections were also postponed in Ghazni province due to heightened insecurity in the wake of Taliban’s takeover months earlier and due to demands of equitable representation by ethnic groups. The (IEC) has been mandated to hold elections in Ghazni within four months and voting might take place along with the presidential elections in 2019.

However, nearly 4 million people out of 8.8 million registered voters cast their ballots in favour of democracy, in the elections. Preliminary results are expected by 10 November and the final list of elected candidates is due on 20 December.

The parliamentary vote is a prelude to the presidential election scheduled for 20 April 2019. The completion of the polling process without significant lapses suggests that electoral institutions are capable of conducting a successful presidential election next year.

The country’s current political system rests on an ad-hoc power sharing agreement between two rival contenders of the 2014 election - the current president Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. This power-sharing deal was brokered by the United States after allegations of election fraud and ethnic partisanship emerged from both sides. However, it is not immediately clear whether the incumbent government will retain the political structure suggested by National Unity Government agreement.

A protracted dispute between the president Ashraf Ghani and former governor of the Balkh province – Atta Noor marked the beginning of another imminent political competition. While Abdullah Ghani is committed to seeking a re-election next year, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah is yet to announce his decision. Ghani also introduced anti-corruption reforms which seek to empower government institutions over regional power-brokers and warlords. This also led to an attempt to remove such individuals from Afghanistan’s politics - including first Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum and Atta Noor.

In 2017, a brutal police crackdown on peaceful protestors demanding security sector reform led to widespread public protests and criticism by government officials. Amid this wave of discontent, Atta Noor announced the creation of a 2019 electoral alliance - ‘Coalition for Salvation of Afghanistan’. It includes Jamiat-e-Islami led by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Atta Muhammad Noor, Jombesh-i-Mili Islami led by Abdul Rashid Dostum and Hezb-e-Wahadat Mardom led by Second Deputy Chief Executive Muhammad Mohaqeq Afghani. Since its support base lies in minority communities - the Tajiks, Uzbeks and a faction of Hazaras, CSA might gather the necessary votes for an electoral win and unite different ethnic groups. However, the coalition faces challenges from intra-Jamiat disagreements and historical rivalries between members. It also requires support of Pashtun leaders and according to reports, Atta Noor has approached former president Hamid Karzai for support, and the latter might choose to throw his weight behind a different Pashtun candidate.

Ashraf Ghani, will attempt to weaken the alliance by exploiting internal differences through political manoeuvring. Some reports also suggest that he has held talks with Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf, the leader of the Council for Protection and Stability in Afghanistan; Hezb-e Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; Deputy CEO Mohammad Mohaqiq; CEO Abdullah Abdullah; and Hazara Hizb-e Wahdat leader Karim Khalili to introduce a counter-alliance called ‘The Council of Elders’.

It is this intense political competition with varying layers and nuances that will unfold in a war-torn country in the coming months. As democracy strengthens in Afghanistan, its political future will be of strategic interest to the international community.

As of January 2018, 229 districts were under Afghan government control which is about 56.3 percent of total Afghan districts, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). After seventeen years of international intervention, Taliban and ISIS-K have continue to make territorial gains and use violence as a political tool.

Since it a is a nascent democracy, constitutional and electoral reforms will continue to evolve. Security sector reform and anti-corruption measures would be also crucial in promoting effective governance and accountable institutions.

Record-high opium harvest in 2018, fuels the black economy through money laundering, smuggling, weapons trade and terrorism and will require immediate attention. The reconstruction and diversification of the economy will pose the most significant challenge and opportunity for the new leadership. The incumbent government also needs to develop credible institutions which can deliver public goods effectively to gain legitimacy and control across the state.

In 2018 - after a gap of seven years, the US held multiple rounds of direct talks with the Taliban in Doha to facilitate a peace process - which may include political recognition and constitutional amendments for the Taliban. This suggests that United States is serious about promoting an ‘Afghanistan owned and led process’ which is crucial for securing long-term peace. Initiating a smooth political transition during the presidential election in 2019 will eventually allow the US to retreat from the country without sacrificing its interests. Similarly, NATO recognises the primacy of a political solution to the war. It will continue to assist the Afghanistan government with financial assistance, capacity building and counsel. Meanwhile, Taliban will continue election-related violence and will seek to enter the negotiations from a position of maximum strength.

Pakistan is also investing in a political transition, as it recently released deputy chief of Afghan Taliban - Mullah Abdul Ghani and another commander Mullah Abdul Samad Sani as part of the US negotiations. Ahead of the elections, it also closed two important border crossings at the request of the Afghanistan government. As a democratic regional power, India perceives stability and prosperity as the most potent solution to its legitimate security interests in Afghanistan.

Negotiations with the Taliban and structural political reforms will be key in achieving a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. However parliamentary election gives us one important insight – they strongly reject Taliban’s extreme Islamist influence and seek security and development for future generations. The near-completion of the voting process and inclusion of rudimentary electoral reforms during heightened violence indicates that limited progress will continue to take place. This sets a positive tone for the 2019 presidential election where political actors will compete to uphold dreams and aspirations of people and make Afghanistan a stronger nation.

Go to Global Center Stage

Back to Top

Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.

Search