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Elections in Afghanistan

Elections in Afghanistan

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This article gives information on election
Election
An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the...

s
in Afghanistan
Politics of Afghanistan
The politics of Afghanistan consists of the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly, with a president serving as the head of state and commander-in-chief of the military. The nation is currently led by the Karzai administration under President Hamid Karzai who is backed by two vice...

.


Though Afghanistan has had democratic elections throughout the 20th century, the election institutions have varied as changes in regimes have disrupted political continuity. Presidential elections in 2009, raised doubts about the legitimacy and power of the current electoral system, established in the 2003 constitution, in both the national political environment and the international community.

1949


In 1949, Afghan Prime Minister Shah Mahmud allowed relatively free national assembly elections, and the resulting seventh Afghan Parliament (1949–1951), which has become known as the "Liberal Parliament", gave voice to criticism of the government and traditional institutions, allowed opposition political groups to come to life, and enacted some liberal reforms, including laws providing for a free press. This being the seventh parliament, six must have been elected from 1923 to around 1944.

1952


The Afghan parliamentary election in 1952 was considered a step backward from the one in 1949. As part of the government crackdown in 1951 and 1952 ending liberalization, the Kabul University student union had been dissolved in 1951, newspapers critical of the government had been shut down, and many of the leaders of the opposition had been jailed.

1964


In 1964, King Mohammed Zahir Shah
Mohammed Zahir Shah
Mohammed Zahir Shah was the last King of Afghanistan, reigning for four decades, from 1933 until he was ousted by a coup in 1973...

 ordered the convening of a Loya jirga
Loya jirga
A loya jirga is a type of jirga regarded as "grand assembly," a phrase in the Pashto language meaning "grand council." A loya jirga is a mass meeting usually prepared for major events such as choosing a new king, adopting a constitution, or discussing important national political or emergency...

 - a national gathering that included the members of the National Assembly, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and both constitutional commissions - to draft and approve a new Afghan constitution. 167 members of the assembly were elected by the provinces, and 34 members were appointed directly by the king. Although most of the 452 people (including six women) assembled were predominantly officials who could be expected to support the royal line, the Loya Jirga of September 1964 also included members elected from the entire nation. While the government did screen out many potential dissidents, "on the whole ... delegates to the Loya Jirgah appeared to represent the full range of social, political, and religious opinion."

1965


Most observers described the 1965 election as remarkably fair despite difficulties such as widespread illiteracy, low voter turnout, lack of political parties, and attempts by some government officials to influence the results. The 216-member Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, included representation by anti-royalists, supporters of the king, Pashtun nationalists, both the left and right of the political spectrum, entrepreneurs and industrialists, political liberals, a small leftist group, as well as conservative Muslim leaders who still opposed secularization. This was Afghanistan's 12th parliament, so there must have been three more National Assembly elections in 1955-62.

1969


The 1969 parliamentary elections, with voter turnout not much higher than in 1965, produced a parliament that more or less reflected the distribution of power and population of rural Afghanistan - conservative landowners and businessmen predominated, and many more non-Pashtuns were elected than in the previous legislature. Most of the urban liberals and all female delegates lost their seats. Few leftists were in the new 13th parliament, although Babrak Karmal
Babrak Karmal
Babrak Karmal was the third President of Afghanistan during the period of the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. He is the best known of the Marxist leadership....

 and Hafizullah Amin
Hafizullah Amin
Hafizullah Amin was the second President of Afghanistan during the period of the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan....

 (a mathematics teacher educated in the United States) were elected from districts in and near the capital Kabul
Kabul
Kabul , spelt Caubul in some classic literatures, is the capital and largest city of Afghanistan. It is also the capital of the Kabul Province, located in the eastern section of Afghanistan...

.

Republic of Afghanistan (1973–1978)


1987


In 1987, the Soviet-backed Afghan communist government introduced a law permitting the formation of other political parties, announced that it would be prepared to share power with representatives of opposition groups in the event of a coalition government, and issued a new constitution providing for a new bicameral National Assembly (Meli Shura), consisting of a Senate (Sena) and a House of Representatives (Wolesi Jirga), and a president to be indirectly elected to a 7-year term.

Local elections were held throughout the country in August 1987, with a considerable number of the elected representatives reported to be non-PDPA
People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan was a communist party established on the 1 January 1965. While a minority, the party helped former president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Daoud Khan, to overthrow his cousin, Mohammed Zahir Shah, and established Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan...

 members. On September 30, 1987, Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai , originally merely Najibullah, was the fourth and last President of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. He is also considered the second President of the Republic of Afghanistan.-Early years:Najibullah was born in August 1947 to the Ahmadzai...

 was unanimously elected as President of the Revolutionary Council. In November, 1987, a Loya jirga
Loya jirga
A loya jirga is a type of jirga regarded as "grand assembly," a phrase in the Pashto language meaning "grand council." A loya jirga is a mass meeting usually prepared for major events such as choosing a new king, adopting a constitution, or discussing important national political or emergency...

 unanimously elected Najibullah as President of the State.

1988


In April 1988, elections were held for both houses of the new National Assembly. The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan
The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan was a communist party established on the 1 January 1965. While a minority, the party helped former president of Afghanistan, Mohammed Daoud Khan, to overthrow his cousin, Mohammed Zahir Shah, and established Daoud's Republic of Afghanistan...

 (PDPA) won 46 seats in the House of Representatives and controlled the government with support from the National Front, which won 45 seats, and from various newly recognized left-wing parties, which had won a total of 24 seats. Although the election was boycotted by the Mujahideen
Mujahideen
Mujahideen are Muslims who struggle in the path of God. The word is from the same Arabic triliteral as jihad .Mujahideen is also transliterated from Arabic as mujahedin, mujahedeen, mudžahedin, mudžahidin, mujahidīn, mujaheddīn and more.-Origin of the concept:The beginnings of Jihad are traced...

, the government left 50 of the 234 seats in the House of Representatives, as well as a small number of seats in the Senate, vacant in the hope that the guerillas would end their armed struggle and participate in the government.

1992


Following the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the ouster of the communist government in April 1992, an indirect election for president took place in December 1992. An interim government, headed by a prime minister, was formed in June 1993.

2004


Under the 2001 Bonn Agreement, Afghanistan was scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2004 in order to replace the transitional government led by American-backed Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai, GCMG is the 12th and current President of Afghanistan, taking office on 7 December 2004. He became a dominant political figure after the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001...

 since his appointment in December 2001. Presidential
President of Afghanistan
Afghanistan has only been a republic between 1973 and 1992 and from 2001 onwards. Before 1973, it was a monarchy that was governed by a variety of kings, emirs or shahs...

 elections were held in 2004, but parliamentary elections were not held until mid-September 2005. See March 2005 UN Security Council report on parliamentary elections delay.

2005


Afghanistan held parliamentary and provincial council elections on September 18, 2005. Final results were delayed by accusations of election fraud, and were finally announced on November 12, 2005.

Former warlords and their followers gained the majority of seats in both the lower house and the provincial council (which elects the members of the upper house). Women won 28% of the seats in the lower house, six more than the 25% guaranteed in the 2004 Constitution
Constitution of Afghanistan
The Constitution of Afghanistan is the supreme law of the state Afghanistan, which serves as the legal framework between the Afghan government and the Afghan citizens...

.

Turnout was estimated at about 50%, substantially lower than at the presidential election in October 2004. This was blamed on the lack of identifiable party lists as a result of Afghanistan's new electoral law, which left voters in many cases unclear on who they were voting for.

2009


The Afghan presidential and provincial council elections held on August 20, 2009 were widely characterized as marred by lack of security, violence, extremely low voter turnout
Voter turnout
Voter turnout is the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election . After increasing for many decades, there has been a trend of decreasing voter turnout in most established democracies since the 1960s...

, and widespread ballot stuffing
Ballot stuffing
Ballot stuffing is the illegal act of one person submitting multiple ballots during a vote in which only one ballot per person is permitted. The name originates from the earliest days of this practice in which people literally did stuff more than one ballot in a ballot box at the same time...

, intimidation
Intimidation
Intimidation is intentional behavior "which would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" fear of injury or harm. It's not necessary to prove that the behavior was so violent as to cause terror or that the victim was actually frightened.Criminal threatening is the crime of intentionally or...

, and other electoral fraud
Electoral fraud
Electoral fraud is illegal interference with the process of an election. Acts of fraud affect vote counts to bring about an election result, whether by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates or both...

. Over 2,800 complaints were received by the Election Complaints Commission, with the largest proportion concerning irregularities at the poll, including ballot box stuffing and voter intimidation. The New York Times wrote, "fraud was so pervasive that nearly a quarter of all votes were thrown out." According to an article by The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, "some 1.26 million recorded votes were excluded from an election that cost the international community more than $300 million." (Another estimate placed the cost at $500 million.)

Official election monitors and the UN placed voter turnout
Voter turnout
Voter turnout is the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot in an election . After increasing for many decades, there has been a trend of decreasing voter turnout in most established democracies since the 1960s...

 in the August 20 first round of the election at only around 30-33%.

On October 20, 2009, under heavy U.S. and ally pressure, President Hamid Karzai announced his acquiescence to a run-off
Two-round system
The two-round system is a voting system used to elect a single winner where the voter casts a single vote for their chosen candidate...

 vote between himself and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah
Abdullah Abdullah
Abdullah Abdullah is an Afghan politician and a doctor of medicine. He was an adviser and friend to Ahmad Shah Massoud, legendary anti-Taliban leader and commander known as the "Lion of Panjshir". After the fall of the Taliban regime, Dr. Abdullah served as Afghanistan's Foreign Minister from 2001...

, to be held November 7. Finally on November 1, however, Abdullah announced that he would no longer be participating in the run-off because his demands for changes in the electoral commission had not been met, and a "transparent election is not possible." A day later, on November 2, 2009, officials of the very same election commission cancelled the run-off and declared Hamid Karzai as President of Afghanistan
President of Afghanistan
Afghanistan has only been a republic between 1973 and 1992 and from 2001 onwards. Before 1973, it was a monarchy that was governed by a variety of kings, emirs or shahs...

 for another 5 year term. According to the New York Times, the Afghan election commission and Karzai had been under intense pressure from the United States and its allies to cancel the run-off. Abdullah said the appointment had "no legal basis" and Afghans deserved a better government. He stated:


"A government that is appointed by an illegitimate commission, a commission that has tainted its own legitimacy, cannot bring the rule of law to the country, it cannot fight the corruption."

2010



The next parliamentary elections are planned for September 18, 2010. In July 2010, Staffan de Mistura
Staffan de Mistura
Staffan de Mistura is a long-serving Italian-Swedish diplomat. After a 36 year career in various UN agencies, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon appointed him as his Special Representative for Iraq on 11 September 2007...

, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan and head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), described these as the "mother of all issues" elections. "They will not be Swiss elections, they are going to be Afghan elections," he said, suggesting the event might not fit the Western definition of democracy. More than 2,600 candidates, including more than 400 women, are running for office.

During the run-up to the elections in September 2010, the Taliban intimidated villagers in certain areas from voting. People in the villages would not vote because the Taliban left night letters
Taliban propaganda
Taliban propaganda has, since the 2001 fall of their national government in Afghanistan, developed into a sophisticated public relations machine that is shaping perceptions in Afghanistan and abroad...

 warning they will cut off the finger of anyone if they find it marked with the indelible ink used to prevent multiple voting.

In late November
November
November is the 11th month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and one of four months with the length of 30 days. November was the ninth month of the ancient Roman calendar...

 2010, Afghanistan's election commission disqualified 21 candidates from the September 18 parliamentary elections
Afghan parliamentary election, 2010
The Afghan parliamentary election, 2010 to elect members of the Wolesi Jirga took place on 18 September 2010. The Afghan Independent Election Commission - established in accordance with the article 156 of the Constitution of Afghanistan for the purpose of organizing and supervising all elections in...

for alleged fraudulent activities, a spokesman said. 19 of the candidates were winning or leading their races, according to partial election results, while two others had failed to win seats.

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