Despite rain and security challenges in many parts of the country, Afghans went to the polls on 5th April in Presidential and Provincial Council elections. The election marks the first time in Afghanistan’s history that power is handed from one democratically elected government to another. Young Afghans who reached the age of 18 since 2010, and those who have not registered before, were queuing to receive voter cards until 1st April. As nearly two thirds of Afghans are under the age of 25, Afghanistan's youth make up a significant proportion of voters.
Many of these young Afghans have left powerful testimonies on UNDP Afghanistan Facebook page in the weeks before the election.
One of the first comments came from 21 year old Feroza from Kabul. She is the only one in her family with a voter’s card. “I want change that not only brings peace but also good education, freedom and rights for all women of Afghanistan”, she said.
Ghulam, a 27 year old from Herat, thinks that the elections give Afghans the chance to choose the best person to lead their nations. “Like other countries, we deserve to have peace, security, welfare and a strong economy”, says Ghulam.
From a remote area of Kunar province, where he will cast his vote, another young Afghan also called Ghulam says that the solution to the many challenges that Afghans confront is “to participate actively in the election process”.
Zarmalook, a 23 year old from Gardez, says he will vote because he wants peace, education and a national army. Fatima, a young woman from Bamyan, confirmed that she would also take part in the elections: “It is my right and as a youth and as a woman to select my own president”.
In Panjshir province, 22-year-old Sardar believes that by voting Afghans can decide the future of their country. “I would like everyone to participate in the elections”, he says. “This is our only chance for a brighter future”, says Massoud, a 25-year-old from Kunduz.
Another young Afghan, Bashir, says that he registered to vote in spite of the threats. He finds inspiration in the saying of the American President Abraham Lincoln: “The ballot is stronger than the bullet”.
Eight candidates are contesting the presidential election while 2,597 provincial council candidates are contesting 458 provincial council seats nationwide. The IEC planned 20,795 polling stations distributed amongst 6,423 polling centres.
These elections are fully Afghan-run and Afghan-led. The voter registration organised by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), with technical support provided by the UNDP project - Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow II (ELECT II) - resulted in more than 3.8 million extra voters being registered, about a third of them women.
The IEC prepared for distribution 25,000 polling station kits, 54,500 ballot boxes and 50,000 bottles of indelible ink and UV ink that will be used to mark the finger of those who voted, with UNDP support through ELECT-II.
The election also posed a logistical challenge to reach isolated villages with difficult road access in this mountainous country. More than 3,470 donkeys have been used to transport election materials from provinces to remote districts.
The IEC announced an estimated turnout of 58 percent, illustrating the importance of these elections for Afghan people.
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Afghanistan Ján Kubiš congratulated the people of Afghanistan as well as the national electoral and security institutions for participating in the country’s “historic moment.”
“This is indeed both a signal and manifestation of the maturity of the people of Afghanistan", said Mr. Kubiš.
More than 3,8 million mostly newly voting Afghans, about a third of them women, received by April 1st, 2014 a new voter card during the IEC ‘top-up’ campaign with ELECT II support.
The IEC successfully established voter registration centres in all provincial capitals and 99 percent of the districts, with separate stations for men and women.
5,619 voter registration staff, including 34 percent women, were successfully trained to facilitate the voter registration ‘top-up’ campaign.
Almost 2,000 IEC staff members, of whom 20 percent were women, benefitted from capacity development trainings and programmes, supported by ELECT II.
More than 16.7 million radio listeners and 2.7 million television viewers received information in Dari and Pashto on the voter registration process, candidate nomination and the importance of women participation.
About 25,000 community and religious leaders, government officials, women, young voters, political actors and journalists participated in more than 170 provincial and regional consultations conducted in 2012 and 2013 by the IEC to increase awareness on voter registration, candidate nomination, legal reform, and women’s and youth participation.