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October 2018 - Parliamentary Election

On 01 April 2018 Afghanistan's election authorities set 20 October 2018 as the date for long-delayed legislative and district council elections. President Ashraf Ghani had vowed to hold the elections for the 249 seats in the National Assembly before the presidential vote scheduled for next year. But the polls have been repeatedly pushed back due to security fears and logistical challenges.

In October 2017, insurgents controlled or influenced nearly half of Afghanistan's districts, the U.S. government's office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in January 2018. It remained unclear how polling would be held in the contested areas and whether Afghans lacking identity cards and those displaced by conflict will be eligible to vote.

Afghanistan had scheduled parliamentary elections in July 2018 and presidential elections in April 2019. Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that the country would hold its long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections on July 7, 2018, almost three years past the expiry of the sitting parliament's five-year mandate. The UN Secretary-General said that holding credible parliamentary and presidential elections as scheduled — in 2018 and 2019 respectively — is important for Afghan political cohesion.

According to the Afghan constitution, new parliamentary election must be held between 23 April and 23 May. Article 83 stipulates that the vote must take place 30 to 60 days before the first day of the Afghan month of Saratan 1394; this date is equal to 22 June 2015.

Parliamentary elections were postponed because of security fears and disagreement on how to ensure a fair vote after a bitterly disputed presidential election in 2014. With their terms slated to end by 22 June 2015, Afghan parliamentarians voted 22 June 2015 to extend their five-year term until fresh elections are held. Afghanistan’s parliament voted to extend its own term beyond the constitutionally mandated five years. The action was supported by President Ashraf Ghani who wanted to avoid a legal vacuum in the absence of fresh elections. His office said the decision was taken in consultation with the judiciary, the legislative and the executive branches of government. Some parliamentarians as well as some legal experts are still questioning the legality of this action.

Afghanistan's government is in disarray. Following bitterly fought and inconclusive presidential elections in 2014, Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah shared power under a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Under the deal, Abdullah's role as chief executive was to segue into a prime ministerial role, a first for the young democracy. The smooth transition of power from former President Hamid Karzai to Ghani was hailed as a sign of Afghanistan's acceptance of the international community's democratic project that followed the U.S. invasion and toppling of the Taliban.

Public dissatisfaction with President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah dates to the disputed 2014 Afghan presidential election. When President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah came into office, there was huge hope for the future that things would change. After two years, things haven't changed. The national unity government has been locked in this unending struggle over patronage and appointments, and has not made much if any improvements in people's daily lives.

Many points of friction emerged within the National Unity Government, and between the National Unity Government and elements of the political elite, driven, inter alia, by deteriorating security and economic conditions. Although neither of these were of the Government’s making, charges of inaction and miscalculation surfaced in the media. By October 2015, the “unity” government in Kabul forged in 2014 between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, was dysfunctional enough to lack a defense minister.

The Government made progress in addressing the issue of electoral reforms by establishing the Special Electoral Reform Commission, one of its key commitments. The Commission tabled its first set of recommendations, and Cabinet proactively endorsed seven and returned three for further study. The recommendation to change the electoral system would have, in particular, far-reaching consequences for the country’s future political landscape. Electoral reforms are critical for the development of the country’s democratic foundation and they should be a source of stability, bringing people together, not dividing them.

As Afghanistan's national unity government approached its second anniversary, a new BBG-Gallup survey released March 25, 2016 showed deep public dissatisfaction with the country's national leadership. Nearly 81 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with the performance of the national unity government, while 17 percent said they were somewhat or very satisfied. The survey was conducted 27 October to 18 November 2015 among a nationally representative sample of 2,500 adults across all of the country's 34 provinces. It found that dissatisfaction ran across Afghanistan's ethnic and geographic elements.

The country's so-called unity government proved anything but unified. After almost two years, Ghani and Abdullah have been unable to set aside their rivalries. The bitterness between the two men stems from a belief in Abdullah's camp that the election was stolen from Abdullah, and gifted to Ghani as someone Washington could more easily do business with.The two are also seen as pandering to different constituencies: in Ghani's case, the majority ethnic Pashtoons, and in Abdullah's, the Tajiks. Ghani and Abdullah split the government into two camps while they bicker over each other's nominees to top government jobs. The result, is political paralysis.

The government could collapse due to widespread corruption and administrative incompetence. The national unity government agreement expired in October 2016, when parliamentary elections were due to take place, though many observers believe the vote would be postponed until next spring because promised electoral reforms have not been implemented.

Afghanistan's parliamentary elections will be held next year, President Ashraf Ghani said 29 December 2015. "The [parliamentary] election will be held between next summer and fall," Ghani said at a meeting with Electoral Reform Commission (ERC) members, as quoted by the local broadcaster TOLOnews. During the meeting, the president stated that electoral reforms will be implemented ahead of the election, with the election date to be set by the Independent Election Commission. Ghani instructed the ERC's selection committee to begin work on bringing about electoral reforms.

Afghanistan’s top election official said 18 January 2016 the postponed parliamentary polls will be held in October 2016, promising mistakes of the bitterly disputed 2014 presidential vote would not be repeated. Independent Election Commission Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani announced in Kabul the panel has made “all technical” preparations to ensure “fully transparent” parliamentary and district council elections on 15 October 2016. The Afghan parliament’s five-year term expired in June 2015, but security fears and political squabbling on election reforms to ensure a fair vote prevented the IEC from holding elections to choose a new legislative assembly.

According to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, a variety of Afghan political figures were increasingly vocal in their opposition to the national unity government and have been more active in mobilizing supporters following the announcement of 2018 parliamentary elections. These coalitions coalesced around criticism of the government and the deteriorating security and economic situation, as well as perceptions of a growing concentration of power within the presidential palace. The UN Secretary-General noted a marked rift in the relationship between President Ashraf Ghani and key members of the Jamiat-e Islami party. Jamiat-e Islami—one of the oldest and largest political parties in Afghanistan — backed one of its key members, current Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, when he was the runner-up in the 2014 presidential election.

In late June 2017, First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, Balkh Province Governor Atta Noor, and Second Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq announced the creation of a new political coalition (the “Council for the Salvation of Afghanistan”) and accused President Ghani of monopolizing power. According to the UN Secretary-General, this coalition is notable for the cooperation between the Jamiat and Junbish political parties that have had a long and occasionally violent rivalry. The coalition has mobilized its northern support base of Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara communities while attempting to forge links with other opposition figures.

Some 2,300 candidates across Afghanistan filed to run in the parliamentary elections, scheduled for 20 October 2018. Afghanistan's top electoral body has recommended barring 35 candidates from running in the upcoming parliamentary polls after it alleged they had links to armed groups. The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) on 11 August 2018 listed the names of the candidates, which included 12 currently serving members of parliament. It also warned 45 other candidates. The IECC announced plans for the move on August 5, but said the list was not complete at that time and that candidates could appeal. Some candidates were allegedly involved in cases of murder, rape, and extortion, the committee said.

Afghanistan's electoral commission said it was extending voting in the country's parliamentary election to Sunday after several polling stations failed to open. The extension was due to lack of voter materials at some polling stations or problems with the electronic voter system, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said on 20 October 2018.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani inaugurated the term of the nation's new parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, on 26 April 2019 even as Kabul awaited results from the election held last October. The election for the third parliament since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 was delayed by three years due to differences between the camps of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah that dragged the process of electoral reforms.

The constitutional term of the previous parliament ended in 2015, but Ghani allowed it to continue through a presidential decree. After the elections were finally held in October 2018, the announcement of results was delayed due to controversies surrounding the fairness and transparency of the process and allegations of voter fraud. Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Ghani hailed the election of mostly young people, who he said would guard women's and human rights.

He also demanded a deadline for the announcement of results from Kabul province that includes the capital city and surrounding districts. The results are held back as electoral bodies try to verify the results after a large number of allegations of fraud.



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