GP Insights

GP Insights # 152, 28 September 2019

Afghanistan: A successful election, despite a low turnout
Nidhi Dalal

What happened?

On 28 September, Afghanistan completed the electoral process for selecting the President for the fourth time in a row. Based on the pre-election violence across Afghanistan, there was an expectation that the polling would be highly dangerous. When the polling ended on Saturday, the day was not that violence.

However, the polling was not in full swing. Many of the polling booths were closed due to fear of violence. While it would take time to inform the exact numbers that had turned up for polling, it is believed that it was a low turnout.

On the other hand, there were also polling booths across Afghanistan that had witnessed long queues of people waiting to cast their democratic right.  

The results are expected to be announced by the end of October.

What is the background?

This has been the fourth election since 2001 since the overthrow of the Taliban. 

The election had seen registration of over 9 million voters. The threat of violence has been one of the primary focus before the elections. The dangerous environment had already delayed the election dates twice due to threats from the Taliban. There were multiple attacks by the Taliban on hospitals, rallies and the election offices. 

The elections saw the number of polling stations reduced due to security concerns. Only 5,373 out of 7,366 polling stations were operational owing to threats by the Taliban and attempted attacks on the stations. 

While the Ministry of Interior claims the decrease a result of security issues, opposition parties claim the action an intent of suppressing votes. In a country where fraudulent polls are a norm, technologies such as biometric scanners have been deployed to reduce discrepancies. 

The election also took place in the background of a collapsed dialogue between the US and the Taliban. 

What does it mean?

The September elections are significant.

It comes in the backdrop of Taliban’ threat to undermine the electoral process. While the turnout was low, it also shows what an ordinary Afghan wants. Had there been a level playing field, the turnout could have been more.

The polling also took place in a turbulent political environment - after the collapse of US-Taliban peace talks which could have ensured peace and stability in the region. The polling tells that the Afghans have not been totally dismayed with the failure of the dialogue with the Taliban. 

The elections should underline the democratic expectations of ordinary Afghans despite the threat of violence.

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