Majority of Afghans intend to take part in upcoming elections, survey reveals

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A majority of Afghans intend to take part in the country’s upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, according to a nationwide survey conducted by an international consulting group, Democracy International (DI).

The survey, which polled 4,000 randomly selected men and women throughout Afghanistan, indicated that 76 per cent of Afghans are willing to fully participate in the presidential election scheduled for 5 April next year, while 70 percent of Afghans plan to take part in the elections for the National Assembly (‘Wolesi Jirga’), expected in 2015.

The presidential poll will mark an end to the second term of the incumbent, President Hamid Karzai. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, has previously stressed that a credible election is critical to the country’s stability and continued international support.

Speaking at the presentation of ‘A Survey of Public Perception on Elections and Civic Education – Afghanistan,’ in the capital, Kabul, today, the head of the DI research team, Dr. Silvia Susnjic, said that 170 field staff, under the guidance of 37 provincial supervisors and 12 regional coordinators, conducted the survey in 208 districts throughout the country’s 34 provinces.

A member of the research team, Sayed Yasin Hussaini, highlighted that only half of the survey’s respondents stated that they believed in the legitimacy of previous elections held in Afghanistan due to the perception of widespread electoral fraud.

Referring to public awareness on electoral processes and institutions, he noted that a majority of Afghans are unfamiliar with the functions of Independent Elections Commission (IEC) and Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). The former is responsible for administering and supervising elections and referenda, and the latter is a temporary body responsible for adjudicating challenges to candidates and complaints about the electoral process.

“Afghans did not receive sufficient information regarding the preparations for previous elections – only 25 percent (of respondents) said they had enough information to participate on election day,” said Mr. Hussaini.

He added that 26 percent of the survey’s respondents indicated that they were only “somewhat informed” about the legislative activities taking place in the National Assembly.

Another member of the research team, Sabawoon Ahmedzai, told the gathering that the primary area in which Afghans required more information was on the candidates for the elections, while more information about security measures would also help instill confidence in voters.

He also mentioned that radio and television were the most effective channels for informing the Afghan population regarding election-related information. “Thirty percent of the respondents believe more information is needed about the connection between Islam and elections,” Mr. Ahmedzai added.

Some 53 per cent of the survey’s respondents believed that country needed a new electoral law while 28 per cent believed that the electoral law should be amended by the President in consultation with the National Assembly, another DI researcher, Mohammad Hassan Wafaey, said at the presentation.

The issue of Afghanistan’s electoral laws has been before the National Assembly for some time, with two key pieces of legislation debated there seen as necessary for creating a strong legal foundation for the holding of credible elections in Afghanistan.

Mr. Wafaey noted that 73 per cent of the survey’s respondents strongly support preventing candidates with links to illegally armed groups from participating in future elections, and that a majority of Afghans are not likely to support reconciliation with the Taliban or refused to respond to the question on the topic.

In addition, a majority of Afghans – 62 per cent of the survey’s respondents – support the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan by 2014. Afghanistan’s political transition coincides with a security transition currently underway, which is seeing the national authorities take over responsibilities previously assumed by international allies, who are due to end their combat mission by the end of 2014.

Speaking earlier at the Kabul presentation, a DI research team member, Dr. Siddiq Baraki, said that Afghans cited insecurity, unemployment and the weak Afghan economy as the country’s main problems.

He said Afghans have mixed perceptions about the future of the country. “Half of the respondents believed that the country is moving in the right direction, while another half thought that Afghanistan was heading towards wrong direction,” Dr. Baraki said.

Founded in 2002, DI, according to its website, provides analytical services, technical assistance, and project implementation for democracy and governance programs worldwide for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other development partners.