by Farid Behbud
KABUL, April 14 (Xinhua) — The Afghan election officials began voter registration process on Saturday for long-delayed parliamentary and district councils’ elections.
Afghans pin hopes on the elections although challenges remain, including lack of funds and increasing insecurity problems.
On April 1, Gula Jan Abdul Badi Sayad, chairman of Independent Election Commission (IEC), announced Oct. 20 as the date for the upcoming polls, which has been delayed for a couple of times over the past years.
“Finlay, the IEC set Oct. 20 as a new date for parliamentary and district councils elections. The announcement is absolutely good news for all, and in my opinion the date is perfect,” Asadullah Sadaqat, an English language teacher in Kabul, opined in talks with Xinhua.
“We hope the process put an end to the current political instability and conflicts. People in every parts of the country can participate in the election because the weather or climate will not be a barrier in the process. But we must not forget that the insurgents will do their best to sabotage the process and will remain a main obstructer of the process,” Sedaqat said.
First parliamentary election in the post-Taliban Afghanistan was held in 2005 while the second parliamentary polls took place in 2010.
However, the 2015 parliamentary polls, originally set to be held in early 2015 following presidential elections, were repeatedly delayed.
As the political parties in the country did not meet all standards, most of the candidates will contest independently for the 249-seat lower house of parliament for a five-year term.
Despite optimism over the polls, the parliamentary and district councils elections face certain challenges such as lack of budget, insecurity and lack of trust on the election commission’s officials.
Insecurity is the most serious challenge and it seems that providing security for the election will be a daunting challenge for the Afghan security forces as well as international troops.
“Out of the total 7,355 polling stations, 1,122 centers are under medium security threat and another 1,120 face serious security threats — all of which need to be secured by the security institutions,” Deputy Minister of Interior Ministry General Murad Ali Murad told local media.
Another key issue is the budget for the election. International donors have previously provided the required budget for the elections but this time it is unknown which sources will pay for the elections.
The 2014 Presidential election, which was marred with massive fraud and led to a second-run, undermined people’s trust on the election commissioners and people doubt about the ability of the election authorities to hold a fair, free and transport election.
“I do not want to participate in the upcoming election because my vote will not be counted as it was not counted in the past presidential and parliamentary elections,” Murtaza Ashuri, a university student, told Xinhua.
“It is for the interest of all Afghans and the government has to hold election and there is no alternative for it and the international community ought to help the government of Afghanistan’s elections both financially and technically,” Abdul Wahab Karimi, a law professor at private Ibn-e-Sina University, told Xinhua.
Bahsir Ahmad Qasani, a well-respected local journalist, told local 1TV Television, that lack of funds still remained a challenge for the election body.
“The last presidential and parliamentary polls were marred with massive election fraud. We must do more to encourage people to register for upcoming votes and persuade them to trust on IEC staff and politicians as well,” Qasani said.