Understanding the Afghanistan parliamentary elections

WION Web Team Afghanistan Oct 17, 2018, 05.58 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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More than 2,500 candidates are running for 249 seats in Afghanistan’s parliament in Saturday’s election.

Afghanistan is set to hold parliamentary elections on October 20th to elect members of the House of the People after about three years of delay amid massive violence killing and wounding several candidates.

The elections were scheduled to be held on October 15, 2016, but were postponed to July 7, 2018, and then to October 20. The previous parliamentary elections were held in 2010.

All the previous elections in 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2014 were marred by violence and the results bitterly contested. The disagreement over the results of the presidential election in 2014 produced two heads of state—Ashraf Ghani as the president and Abdullah Abdullah (half Tazik) as the Chief Executive. 

The Parliment of Afghanistan has two houses: 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (House of the People) and the 102-seat Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders). 

The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) has already disqualified 35 candidates as they have links with armed groups.

More than 2,500 candidates are running for 249 seats in Afghanistan’s parliament in Saturday’s election.

This year's elections also include 400 women running for the seats, despite being threatened or attacked. The number include teachers, doctors as well as activists.

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Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Dewa Niazai

Nearly nine million people have registered to vote, but far fewer are expected to turn out on polling day due to threats of violence and expectations for massive fraud.

On October 20, Afghan voters will be able to cast ballots at more than 21,000 polling stations across the country except in Ghazni - which reportedly won’t be having polls at all. According to news reports, 54,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces will be responsible for protecting polling centers on election day.

Elections marred by fraud and violence could threaten to divide or even collapse the current government.

Afghanistan

Afghan security forces members carry an injured policeman

Security officials predict that far worse attacks could come from the foreign-based Islamic State militia, which has killed scores of civilians in bombings in Kabul this year, including an attack on a voter ID center that resulted in the deaths of more than 60 people. 

Another worry is the potential for massive fraud, especially the misuse of ballots and voter ID cards. Large quantities of false or extra ID cards have reportedly been distributed, and a costly last-minute effort to install biometric technology at polling stations may not succeed in catching problems.

At the same time, the Taliban and other groups have deliberately targeted previous rounds of voting. For opponents of the government, they see undermining elections as a useful means of proving the weakness of the government and its waning international support. There have been attacks on both individual candidates and campaign gatherings.