Some presidential candidates said on Sunday that they doubt the Afghan government and the Independent Election Commission’s will to hold timely elections as according to them there is “ambiguity” around the ongoing peace process which has seen new momentum earlier this month.
The presidential elections are scheduled for September 28 and, meanwhile, reports indicate that there is the possibility of a peace deal ahead of the polls.
“There is a lack of trust that whether the elections will be held on the 6th of Meezan [28 September]. At the same time, the expectations that were existed that the peace process will reach some types of conclusion before the elections, that have not happened so far, there is some sort of confusion between the two processes and this has declined the trust that the people should have [in the elections],” presidential candidate Shaida Mohammad Abdali said.
“The government and the election commission have no preparations to organize the polls on September 28,” presidential candidate Noor Rahman Lewal said.
The candidates also voiced their concerns over a surge in violence, saying it would be difficult to organize the elections in a free and fair manner unless there is an improvement in security.
“One of the reasons which could prevent the nationwide elections is the security issue, but in the view of the current situation in the country, where we lose our military personnel and civilians every day, the elections will likely face challenges,” presidential candidate Noor-ul-Haq Ulomi said.
The Peace and Justice Election Team led by the reconciled leader of the Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said that they had serious reservations about the elections.
They said that it will be better to delay the elections if there are serious hopes that the peace process with the Taliban will reach a final conclusion ahead of September 28.
“The peace process is in its crucial stage. We are prepared for the elections. We are confident that we will win the elections. If the peace process becomes more serious and if there are indications that the path to peace is near, we prefer to have peace first and then conduct the elections in a peaceful environment,” said Humayoun Jarir, member of Hizb-e-Islami.
But the chairperson of the Independent Election Commission, Hawa Alam Nuristani, at a press conference in Kabul on Sunday said the elections will be held on time.
“Peace is a need for Afghanistan, but elections are also the top priority,” Nuristani said.
“Majority of the Afghan people want the elections to be held on time. The Afghan government cannot appear in contrast to the demand of the Afghan people; therefore, doubts and skepticisms among the honorable candidates are early. They should not be skeptical,” presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told reporters on Sunday.
Also in June, a group of presidential candidates said the leadership of the Independent Election Commission and the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission have “failed” to deliver their promise on bringing reforms in the structure of the electoral bodies.
Criticism against the election commission has been huge after the October 20 parliamentary elections which was marred by widespread allegations of frauds and riggings.
The government leaders – President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah who are also running in the elections have been accused many times of attempts to interfere in the upcoming presidential elections to drive the process in their favor.
Last week two electoral monitoring organizations released a new study about the election process in which they stated that the Independent Election Commission, the Afghan government and their international partners do not have a clear roadmap for peace and elections in the country.
The study notes that the election commission, the Afghan government, and the international community are not prepared to hold a nationwide and transparent presidential election that will also see the end of President Ashraf Ghani’s five-year term.
The study indicates that the following issues have affected the interest of the Afghan government, the international community and the election commission to hold the upcoming presidential elections.
• Lack of interest from the international community towards the electoral process;
• The election commission’s “failure” to drop fake names from voter list;
• Ambiguity about the use of biometric devices in the elections;
• The nature of relations between the election commission and the government.
The study titled “The First Pre-Election Day Assessment Report” has been conducted by the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) and Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA).
The study revealed only one day after Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah warned that the upcoming presidential elections should lead the country towards stability, not a crisis, as he stressed on transparency in the electoral process.
Abdullah warned that the country will fall into an “unbearable tragedy” if the problems of 2014 presidential elections were repeated in the upcoming polls, scheduled for September 28.