The Election Support Group of Ambassadors on Monday issued a statement warning that any change in the electoral system at this stage would delay parliamentary and district council elections beyond 2018.
The statement, on behalf of the Election Support Group of Ambassadors, which is comprised of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), NATO and key donor countries, including the European Union, the Governments of Denmark (representing Nordic Plus), Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, and United States, reiterated the call on the Afghan government to recognize its constitutional obligation in terms of holding periodic elections in the country.
The statement also indicated that the support group recognizes the strong desire of all political actors for the holding of timely parliamentary elections in 2018 and presidential elections in April 2019.
According to the statement, the Election Support Group and the rest of the international community are committed to supporting Afghan electoral institutions.
The statement added: “We take note of longstanding concerns regarding the electoral system. We acknowledge that ultimately the decision on the nation’s electoral system belongs to the Afghan people, and is one that should be made through an inclusive, consultative, procedurally rigorous, and constitutionally mandated legal process.
“We take note of the Independent Election Commission’s assessment that given the technical adjustments required in the electoral preparations following a change in the existing system, such a change at this junction would require parliamentary elections to be delayed beyond 2018.
“The technical experts of the Election Support Group have come to a similar conclusion that any change in electoral system at this stage would delay parliamentary and district elections beyond 2018,” the statement reads.
Based on the statement, the international community is encouraged by the progress towards implementing the reforms in the election system.
“The international community is encouraged by progress toward implementing reforms, such as the polling centre based voter register, which have the potential to decrease fraud and enhance the integrity of the electoral process. We look forward to robust and concerted efforts to ensure voter registration and preparations proceed unimpeded and on schedule for elections in 2018,” according to the statement.
“Elections are a national process owned by the Afghan people in which all political actors, including political parties and civil society organizations, are stakeholders. In this regard, we encourage all parties and movements, civil society, and government institutions to support the electoral management bodies in ensuring the successful conduct of the upcoming elections.
“The timely conduct of credible and inclusive elections is fundamental to ensuring political stability and inclusivity, as well as progress in the peace process,” the statement concluded.
This comes amid ongoing concerns among the Afghan political elite, members of the civil society institutions and election monitoring groups, that have persistently raised doubts about the ability of the Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the will of government to conduct elections on time.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in Afghanistan’s parliament and some political figures have also said that the people of Afghanistan will not accept any move to delay the upcoming elections in the country.
“The elections must be held on time at any cost, for instance, if the possibility of elections was not there, then we will move toward our traditional Afghani custom and will call for a Loya Jirga and then we will chose the head of state,” said Sebghatullah Mojaddedi, chairman of the High Council of Jihadi and National Parties.
In addition, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the reconciled leader of Hizb-e-Islami group, said in a speech at a gathering of his supporters in the eastern province of Nangarhar on Monday that the people do not like the current parliament. He called for elections to be held in a fair and transparent manner.
“Whenever the people see the words and actions of the majority of lawmakers, then they lower their eyes and feel shame,” said Hekmatyar.
IEC Says Govt Yet to Deliver on Election Promises
The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) on Sunday said that the turbulence in the security sector and lack of budget are two core issues that could create serious challenges ahead of elections.
Wasima Badghisi, IEC operational deputy chief said the election management body has taken all necessary arrangements to ensure elections are held as per scheduled. The original date was July 7 this year but this has been moved to October 21 (29 Meezan 1397).
“We are completely prepared on the operational and technical sides to conduct the elections in Meezan (October), but until now the government has not given assurances about security for the elections; the security institutions so far have not responded to our assessments about the polling centers. The ministry of interior, the ministry of defense and directorate of national security must respond to us,” said Badghisi.
Based on the electoral calendar, candidates will be able to file their nomination papers on first of Jawza (22 May).
The IEC has estimated the budget for the elections to be between $70 million USD and $90 million USD and that the bulk of the money will be covered by the international community.
Last week the IEC said that polling stations in at least 32 districts are under high security threats and that the government must ensure security of these stations before the polling.
According to the IEC, from the total number of 7,300 polling stations, 1,707 centers are under threat in 32 districts with the majority of the polling stations located in Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Faryab, and Ghazni while some others are in other provinces.
The election commission had scheduled parliamentary and district council elections for July 7 of this year. However, the IEC has said that holding the elections as scheduled would be dependent on security and funding and have instead moved the date out to October 21.