Afghans Successfully Conduct Run-Off Presidential Elections

Today, Afghans once again proved they want peace and democracy to prevail in their homeland.

Credit: The Guardian

Credit: The Guardian

On June 14, nearly 7 million Afghans, 31 percent of them women, turned out to vote in the historic run-off Presidential elections in Afghanistan.

This is the first time Afghanistan is preparing for an elected president to transfer power to another candidate through the ballot box.

The fact that this election has attracted so much interest in Afghanistan and received a big voter turnout proves Afghans have come a long way in leading their nation and in defying those not wanting the democratic process to succeed.

The Election Campaigns

Afghans were left to choose from two candidates: Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani, when the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan announced in May 2014 that none of the candidates had secured 50%+1 of the total votes.

In the official election campaigns, candidates reached out to their constituencies across Afghanistan to secure votes. The candidates promised many to do’s from restructuring the political system to establishing new provinces in the country, from building the economy and roads to improving human rights.

Media outlets were also busy. Some worked directly for broadcasting political campaigns for one of the candidates; others benefited from lucrative and colorful advertisements. However, most of the media outlets were disappointed when one of the candidates intentional turned downed requests for a public debate with the other candidate.

The Election Day

The election-day in Afghanistan was a festive one. Despite security threats, Afghans came out in large numbers to vote. Men and women, young and the old wanted to vote and be part of the history in making in Afghanistan.

In some provinces, music accompanied the election process. Further live coverage from Afghanistan’s vibrant media outlets, the TVs in particular, made it possible for Afghans to watch the process in the comfort of their homes and be independent observers on the ballot boxes.

In the midst of all these efforts, Afghan security were the real heroes. They were the ones that made Afghans proud by making the day a relatively peaceful one across the country. Minor security incidents were reported but none threatened the election process. The security forces proved they are capable of keeping order in tact and they can be counted on as national heroes of this war-torn country.

Results of the Elections

Afghanistan election law requires all complaints to be attended to before partial and final results are announced. The Independent Election Commission for Complaints collects all grievances from the candidate’s group, reviews them and in light of them approves or disapprove the results of a polling station.

After all complains are addressed, the results are sent to the Independent Election Commission for announcement. The initial results of today’s elections are due on July 2 while the final results are due sometime later in July.

Afghans eagerly look forward to hearing these results and ask on both candidates to accept the results. They expect both Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Ghani to be responsible Afghan leaders that will respect the decision of the Afghan people and continue to play a stabilizing role in Afghanistan; otherwise, they risk being faced with a national disapproval.

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Work Waiting the New President

After President Obama has announced for the US military draw down and eventual reduction of forces to only a few hundred by end of 2016 in Afghanistan, a major job waiting a new Afghan president is to prepare for this transition.

Afghan forces still need support to be prepared in dealing with the insurgency and security threats here. A new president would also need to keep international support mainly from the US through the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to maintain the necessary resources for this transition to be successful.

Other than the security transition, another challenge facing the new Afghan leadership is putting an end to the Taliban insurgency in the country. Afghans understand that in order for the country to maintain its achievements of the last decade, it needs viable and sustainable peace. This isn’t possible with reaching a truce with all insurgent groups including the Taliban. A new president would need to have a new approach to making this happen.

Beyond the challenges in political scenario, Afghanistan also needs to further its economic development agenda. The country still grapples with poverty, lack of investment and jobs for the youth in particular. Also, Afghanistan is faced with a declining international aid environment.

Therefore, a new leader would need to have the necessary skills and political will to better manage its internal resources. This includes ending the perception of corruption and exploring alternative resources such as trade facilitation, revenue mobilization and natural resource management to boost economic growth and development.

The Way Forward for Afghanistan

Today, Afghans once again proved they want peace and democracy to prevail in their homeland. They are not afraid to go out and vote despite numerous challenges; on the contrary, Afghans are ever resilient and committed to bringing a change and lead Afghanistan’s march towards a mature and stable democracy.

However, in order for this resilient country to build on its recent achievements and avoid relapse to a weak state vulnerable to conflicts and interventions, Afghanistan still needs strong international support mainly from Washington. Many Afghans hope this will continue well beyond 2014.

Moheb Arsalan Jabarkhail is an Afghan analyst and writer on the governance and socioeconomic development affairs of Afghanistan and the region. After studying Economics at Kabul University and Bard College in New York as a Fulbright 2003-2007, Moheb studied for Master in Public Policy and Governance at Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Germany 2010-2012. He also has extensive experience of working on development programs with various organizations in and out of Afghanistan. He is currently based in Kabul and can be reached at arsalan.moheb@gmail.com.