Afghans said no to fear and yes to Democracy
Originally scheduled for 2014, the Afghanistan Parliamentary elections happened this weekend with the treats of Taliban attacks. This election is for the National Assembly also known as the Afghanistan Parliament. It is a bicameral body, divided into two chambers:
- The house of Elders or Meshrano Jirga: serves in a mostly advisory role with some veto powers;
- The house of the People or Wolesi Jirga: The main task is passing legislation
One seat is reserved for the Sikh and Hindu communities and 10 seats are reserved for representatives of the nomadic Kuchi peoples. Sixty-eight seats are earmarked for female representatives, two from each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
Living under attack
In the last 90 days, 10 of the 2565 candidates running for parliament were killed. If we look at the situation since January 2018; there were 172 attacks that killed 2737 people and injured in 4308. If we look only for October 2018 (without the election days) there were 7 attacks taking the life of55 people and injuring 64 persons.
The Parliamentary elections were supposed to be only on October 20, but due to various issues, the voting was extended to October 21 in some locations. Looking at this campaign and voting days, it is amazing to see the resilience of the Afghan population, who despite the threats received by the Taliban and Da’esh have moved to the pools in a massive way to guarantee a democratic state in their country.
The Taliban threatened security forces, threatened to close roads that give access to polling centers and threatened teachers that allow schools to be used as a polling center. These elections had all the factors together for the number of abstention be huge, but this did not happen.
The citizens’ motivation to change the country’s situation, to contribute to real change and to give the country a future has led to the number of voters exceeding the expectations and took the population to vote in mass, knowing that their contribution may be essential for a change in the country.
The result of this vote may be less important than the number of people who have decided to say no to threats and leave the house to vote, showing that the Afghans are united against violent extremism. This is the first time in Afghan elections that the candidates are young, independent and determined to change the political situation. These young candidates are intending to break the monopoly of warlords and tribal elders. Around 60% of the candidates are under 40 years old and there are 417 women out of 2565 candidates.
In southern Kandahar province, the voting was delayed one week due to the attack last week that killed the provincial police chief, Gen Abdul Raziq. The number of security forces committed to protecting the population reaches 70 000, but it was impossible to avoid several attempts of attacks. On October 20, at least 67 people were killed in 193 attacks across the country. On the second day of voting, October 21, 11 civilians were killed.
Despite the attacks that occurred on the first day, there was a huge flux of people who were mobilized to vote on the second day because they were unable to exercise their right to vote on the first day of elections. Around 4 million Afghans have voted in these elections. If we take into account that the number of registered voters is 8.8 million, we find that close to half of the eligible population voted. This is a surprising number considering the risk for each citizen to vote.
Several international organizations, as well as the President of Afghanistan, have already congratulated the population for their commitment and courage. This weekend was a time of union for the Afghans who united and used their voting power to express their voices and to put an end of the current situation of Afghanistan.
“The great people of Afghanistan, thank you! By casting your votes, you sent a message to the world that you do not want violence, you demonstrated your determination through democracy. You proved to the Taliban that this nation will not surrender to anyone”… “I thank these women and their families. Their participation is a historic success for Afghanistan’s democracy and it is a great beginning for our new generation. I hope that you participate in the presidential elections in such a large scale.” Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan