News / Asia

Afghan Elections Fraught with Difficulties

Afghanistan's parliamentary elections on Saturday will be another key test for the embattled central government and observers are expressing concern about irregularities before the polls even open.  

VOA talked to three veteran Afghan watchers about what is at stake, what problems are likely to disrupt the vote and how the results might affect the balance of power.

Teresita Schaffer is director of the South Asia Program at CSIS and a former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia. Karl Inderfurth is a professor at George Washington University and former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs. And Mark Schneider is Senior Vice President of the International Crisis Group.

Is the Afghan government prepared for this election?

Schaffer:  "In a sense you can say it's going to be a decade before Afghanistan is prepared to hold this vote, but they don't have the luxury of not doing it. They have held one parliamentary election in the period after the fall of the Taliban government.  This one has been postponed once already. It's obviously not an ideal situation for holding an election but I think they are in a position to give it a try."

Schneider: "I think we're going to see a replay of last year's flawed presidential elections. The current situation is bad in terms of security and that's going to have a significant impact on the ability of the electoral commission to carry out the election."

Inderfurth: "The obstacles are great, but [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai and the international community has agreed that he should go ahead with these elections. So whether or not this is the best time for an election or not, they are proceeding."

Saturday's elections are for the 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, which is responsible for lawmaking and voting on presidential actions. What role has it traditionally played in the country's politics?

Schaffer: "Afghanistan has never had a strong centralized government but, before the Soviet invasion, it did for many years have a functioning parliament.  And so this is a part of government that Afghans are familiar with. It's also one of the few institutions that provides some balancing power to the power of the president and the non-elected, but very real power of some of the local personalities that are dominant in different parts of Afghanistan."

Many people are predicting irregularities in the polls. Are there any hopeful signs about the credibility of the vote?


Schneider: "I was in Afghanistan in July and spoke to members of the independent human rights commission. They already had seen flaws in the vetting process of candidates. Some 350 candidates or so had been identified as having links to illegal armed groups, and yet they were permitted to become candidates. In the end, only about 30 people were barred from running. The good news side is there are a lot of women and young people who have registered as candidates, there is a lot of enthusiasm about the elections and obviously having parliament is extremely important as a branch of government in a democracy."

Schaffer: "This is not a clone of the presidential election. It's more difficult in some ways, but less polarizing in other ways. More difficult because it has to take place in 249 different constituencies that have 249 different races and so it's a humongous management task. What makes it less polarizing is precisely the fact that you've got something like 2500 candidates, which works out to something like 10 per seat. What that means is that it is not so easy to identify which candidates fall neatly into which category for the purposes of gaming the political corruption. And when you have multi-cornered races, you can have surprises."

Inderfurth: "One hopeful sign is that the Afghan body responsible for the election, the Independent Election Commission, has gotten a new leader and is being seen as running a more credible process. So we'll have to see how these Afghan bodies work. The Afghans themselves are determined to run these elections."


You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid