Afghanistan Presidential Elections, 2019
Polling to elect Afghanistan’s next president took place on 28th September, amid heightened attacks by the Taliban, following failed peace talks between the US and the militant organization.
After being delayed twice, poling to elect Afghanistan’s new president finally took place on 28th September. Among the 15 presidential contenders, the current President Ashraf Ghani and the chief executive of his unity government Abdullah Abdullah are the front-runners. The elections that took place in the shadow of peace talks between the Taliban and the US were called off by the US President Donald Trump after a suicide attack killed 12 people including an American soldier in the capital Kabul. This was the 4thpresidential elections since 2001 after the Taliban was ousted from power, by the USA’s invasion of Afghanistan, a part of its War on Terror, following the attack on World Trade Centre. Taliban has waged an insurgency for the past 18 years against the democratically elected Afghan government.
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72,000 troops were deployed, 5,373 polling stations were opened up, biometric recognition system and electoral rolls were used. Almost 9.6 million people were registered as voters of whom 35 per cent were women. Despite measures taken up by the Election Commission and the Afghan security forces, the voter turnout was historically low, as per the various civil societies. The actual number who cast their votes is awaited but according to estimates, 2.6 million voters participated in the polling process. This is attributed to the imminent attack by the Taliban, which has upped its attack prior to the cancellation of peace talks; distrust among people due to the corruption in 2014 presidential and 2018 parliamentary elections; polling booths in conflict areas and those under the Taliban’s rule were not opened up and the biometric identification system that was used for the first time required voters’ photograph being taken, unacceptable for many Afghan women in the deeply conservative society.
The 2014 presidential elections were marred by widespread corruption charges.
The situation aggravated to such an extent that the USA had to intervene and a unity government was formed with Ashraf Ghani as the president and his main rival Abdullah Abdullah as the newly created post of chief executive. Fraud and corruption have also emerged in this election as well. One of the two front-runners, Abdullah said that many of the polling stations were not opened as those areas comprised of his strongholds. Similarly, GulbuddinHekmatyar, a former warlord, who also served as Afghanistan’s prime minister has levelled allegations against both the front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, of using the state machinery to ensure their victory. The preliminary results are expected on 18thOctober. Final results are to be announced on 7th November,and in case, no candidate is able to secure a majority, that is, 50 per cent of the votes polled plus 1 vote, then a run-up election will take place on 23rd November, where the nation will cast their votes for either of the two front-runners.
To check on fraud and corruption during elections, biometric identification devices were used;these were provided by Dermalog, a German company.
‘It was guaranteed to us by the company that the devices have the capability of registering the time of voting and the location of voting but if the location of the device is changed, the server will not accept the vote’, said Rahima Zarafi, a member of the Election Commission, as reported by the New York Times.
The new government with a fresh mandate, that will be formed towards the end of the year, is expected to play a significant role in the peace talks with the Taliban and the subsequent cease-fire.Managing the security situation as well as revamping the economy of the war-ravaged country will be big challenges for the new government.
Meanwhile, both the camps of Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have claimed victories. Chief of the Election Commission Habibarrahman Nang told the press conference that no candidate have the right to declare himself the winner before the results are tallied. Meanwhile, the Afghan government has termed the elections as a major success.