Kandahar’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) office has been closed for the past six days as supporters of political parties and provincial council members continue to call for their demands to be met.
Protesters want transparent elections and for the IEC to use a biometric system in the electoral process.
Supporters of political parties – that operate under the Grand National Coalition of Afghanistan – have established sit-in camps near the IEC office in the province. The protestors said they have “simple” demands – a transparent election and the use of a biometric system on Election Day.
In addition, the IEC office in Balkh has remained closed under similar circumstances.
One protestor, Nematullah, said the office of the IEC in Kandahar will remain closed until their demands are met. “We want the legitimate demands of the people and the provincial council to be addressed,” Nematullah said.
“We have seen that one person has even got up to ten identity cards therefore we want every person to cast one vote and should use that vote for their favorite candidate,” said Khudai Nazar, another protestor from Kandahar.
The protestors insisted that they will continue their demonstration until their demands are met.
“We will continue our move even if government uses force against us,” said Mohammad Ekhlas, a protestor.
Kandahar police meanwhile said they are looking for a solution to the problem through talks with the protectors.
“We have held talks instead of using force so that we can find a solution for this problem and open the election commission office,” said Zia Durrani, spokesman for Kandahar Police Headquarters.
This comes after supporters of the coalition closed the offices of the Independent Election Commission in Balkh, Kandahar and Herat provinces on Saturday over demands for a transparent election and a change in the electoral system.
The political parties that operate under the Grand National Coalition have threatened to also close IEC offices in Nangarhar, Kunduz, Bamiyan, Panjsher, Faryab and Jawzjan provinces if their demands are not met.
Supporters of the coalition established sit-in camps near the IEC office in Balkh on Saturday morning, insisting the demands of the political parties be met, including the use of a biometric system for elections, a change in election system and transparent polls across the country.
The political parties have set deadlines for government a few times for their demands to be addressed.
On August 10, these parties set a 10-day deadline for a response from government to meet their demands on a change in the country’s election system and ensure that a biometric system is used on the day of voting.
The parties include the Council for the Protection and Stability in Afghanistan, Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan, the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan, Hizb-e Wahdat Islami Mardum-e Afghanistan and some political movements including Mehwar-e-Mardum-e-Afghanistan.
IEC Reacts To Office Closure
Addressing a press conference on Sunday, Gulajan Abdulbadi Sayyad, head of Independent Election Commission, called on the coalition of political parties to instead share their list of demands with the commission so that a legal solution can be sought.
He said political parties and observer institutions are not attending IEC meetings nor are they cooperating with the commission – yet they constantly level criticism at the IEC.
“The culture of closing offices must end, and those who are closing offices in the centers and then in the provinces will be responsible for delaying the elections, they do not want to hold elections on time,” said Sayyad. “We request all of them to share their legal demands in the framework of the law with the commission and to find a legal solution for their concerns regarding the transparency of the elections.”
Govt Considers SMTV System For Elections
The Afghan government is considering the Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV) system for the elections, however political parties and movements have asked for the use of the multi-dimensional representation (MDR) for the elections.
The SNTV is an electoral system used in multi-member constituency elections. In any election, each voter casts one vote for one candidate in a multi-candidate race for multiple offices. Posts are filled by the candidates with the most votes. Thus, in a three-seat constituency, the three candidates receiving the largest number of votes would win office.
The cost of the SNTV system is less but analysts said it has more defects.
It is believed that the system will mostly benefit independent candidates.
With the MDR system, a vote can be transferred from one candidate to another which makes it different from the SNTV system. In this system, political parties and independent candidates will compete. In this system, political parties can have one candidate or they can introduce a candidate in coalition with other parties.
Independent candidates meanwhile can compete alone or they can take part in the election in collaboration with other independent candidates.
With the MDR system, if a party has at least 10 candidates, their candidates votes- that exceed the required number- can be transferred to other candidates from the same party. The same can be applied to independent candidates if they make an agreement.
Electoral watchdog organizations said the MDR system has its complications and is not applicable considering the little time remaining to October parliamentary elections.
Use Of ‘Modern Technology’ For Elections
President Ashraf Ghani last month directed the Central Statistic Organization (CSO) to use “modern technology” to specify the exact number of voters who will cast their votes at polling stations on election day.
According to Ghani’s decree issued in August, the CSO should cooperate with the Independent Election Commission (IEC), security agencies and other relevant institutions in determining the exact number of registered voters.
In the decree, the Ministry of Finance and the National Procurement Authority have been ordered to cooperate with the CSO and other departments in the allocation of budget and procurement for the technology.
Afghanistan's Central Civil Registration Authority (ACCRA) has said that they are ready to help the CSO determine the voter numbers.
The decree does not state details about whether a biometric system will be used to identify voters on election day.
According to the Independent Election Commission, over nine million voters have registered their names for the upcoming elections.