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Editorial: Transparency of election at stake

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Election is the principal pillar of democracy with which citizens of a democratic nation practice their franchise and throw themselves into their fate. In the wake of the overthrow of the Taliban and the institutionalization of democracy, Afghanistan too became a pro-democratic country, with a pyramid of shortcomings though. Elections have been inundated with disfranchisement, rigging, ethnocracy, prejudice, mishandling, misappropriation, and postponements. Elections for Parliament and District Councils have been deferred for almost three years past the expiry of the sitting parliament’s five-year mandate; this long deferral is amidst doubts that elections scheduled for 20th October could further be delayed because of major security and logistical challenges.

The drastically lingering postponement in the elections had been an offshoot of ‘political dispute’ and wrangling over voter registration. An ambitious biometric registration system originally envisaged as a means of avoiding massive voter fraud that marred the 2014 presidential vote was abandoned last year due to discrepancies and contention over its contents. Much of the prelude to the election has focused on the debate over the legislation and finalization of the biometric system.

But the 2018 poll date looks to be an impossible milestone. The vote will encounter hurdles in the sphere of electoral technicalities and declining security in many parts of the country in addition to a stalled biometric registration. A major push to register voters, many of whom devoid of identity cards, will need to be accomplished prior to October deadline – which is a daunting task in the face of indigenous disagreements over the formalities of the process. A more daunting task would be to secure the ballots where the government control is minimal and whitewashed by the militants.

There is no denying to the fact that for credible and transparent elections, security is indispensable. Despite these facts, Afghans have a burning desire to be part of the democratic transition of power amidst hurdles such as lack of voting cards. Pre-election fraud has also cast shadow on the legitimacy and transparency of election as well – which is highly likely because of that biometric identity cards contention. Ever since a voter registration campaign began, there has transpired major fraud in regard with identity cards, as many of them have been faked.

Although the prospects of managing an election as soon as October is unlikely, but any further delay in the election will besmirch the image of even a nascent democracy in the country. The turnout of all Afghans in the electoral process is very critical as the time is lapsing and the process could be easily derailed. Lingering voter registration process and its complexities and aggravating security need to be resolved before election is delayed to the next summer with the presidential vote.