ATR Survey Says 79% Intend to Vote in Presidential Elections

News - Election 2014

In a recent pre-election survey conducted by the firm Assess, Transform and Reach Consulting (ATR), in five provinces, it was found that 79% of respondents intended to vote in the 2014 Presidential elections. When asked what conditions could lead them to change their mind, the majority of respondents cited the security situation.

The survey was organized in Khost, Baghlan, Kandahar, Faryab and Kabul provinces. The respondents in the 1,927 person sample were randomly selected in public places in both urban and rural areas.

The figures reported in the survey far surpass the total number of registered voters reported by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of 18 million out of the estimated total Afghan population of 30 million. However, a significant amount of the young Afghan population are not eligible to participate in the elections due to being under the age of 18. Of those who participated in the survey, 65 percent said they were registered to vote.

The indication of security concerns being the major disincentive for voting came as no surprise as officials and experts alike have been raising the alarm about the threat insurgents and Illegal Armed Groups (IAGs) pose to voter participation, transparency and the overall legitimacy of the elections. A number of registration centres were unable to open due to security issues and the IEC recently acknowledged that a little less than half of all planned polling centres remain under a certain level of threat.

When the respondents were asked whether or not they thought elections should be cancelled if they could not take place in several districts of a province due to insecurity, 61 percent said no, 18 percent said yes and 8 percent said maybe. In contrast, however, when asked if the elections should be cancelled if they could not be held in "most insecure areas of the country," 51 percent of respondents said yes and only 17 percent said no, with 22 percent answering maybe.

The survey indicated that an overwhelming number of respondents thought elections were the best way for a new leader in Afghanistan to come to power. Specifically, 78 percent of the respondents agreed on that while only six percent favored a religious leader take power and create an "Islamic Emirate," and eight percent supported a "Loya Jirga" deciding on the next leader by consensus.

ATR's survey also looked to uncover what people thought about the management of preparations for next spring's elections. Over 33 percent said that they thought the elections would be better organized than before, while 32 percent disagreed. An additional 24 percent reported thinking the elections would "maybe" be better organized than before.

Just under a majority of respondents – 44 percent – said that they trusted the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in counting votes, while 26 percent said they did not and 21 percent answered maybe.

The survey conducted by ART offered some significant revelations about the public and what they think about the upcoming elections. Next spring's elections are scheduled to take place on April 5, and while a startling number of people announced their intention to participate in the elections in the survey, the IEC and others remain keen on getting more Afghans to register to vote.

With security issues clearly a major issue that could keep people away from the poll next April, however, getting more people voting cards does not seem the silver bullet to participation. Security officials and the IEC will have their work cut out for them to assure that polling centres are not only effectively secured, but that eligible voters perceive them as so and feel safe turning out to cast their ballots.

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