A UNAMA-supported debate in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif tackled some of the key electoral issues facing Afghanistan today.
A panel of experts shared their perspectives on the theme 'Election and Democracy in Afghanistan' and responded to questions from a lively audience of around 50 people including law students and representatives of civil society.
The debate took place at a local TV studio and was later broadcast in Afghanistan on Arezu TV and made available globally via satellite. A programme about the debate was broadcast on Arezu FM in Mazar-e-Sharif and Sarayesh FM in Sheberghan.
Participants discussed many of the core election issues facing the country including trust in the election process, election fraud, and the effect of conflict on voting, along with the merits of electronic identity cards and a voter database.
The local debate in Mazar-e-Sharif comes amid media reports that the Special Electoral Reform Commission, established recently by the National Unity Government, is on the verge of presenting its recommendations to the government. UNAMA has previously welcomed the setting up of the Commission as an “important step” in the electoral reform process.
Debate panelist Sayed Mohammad Sami, who is also Regional Manager of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in Balkh province, stressed the need to overcome gaps in the electoral system in order to minimize the issue of fraud and abuse.
Another panelist Mohammad Nazari – who is a college professor and former commissioner of the Independent Election Commission – said that the country’s first democratic election in 2004 was successful. He identified levels of insecurity and management of the electoral process as key factors in the fairness of elections.
Law student Shoaib Rahimi said that transparent and visible electoral reform was needed in order to regain people’s trust in the system.
Many of the participants agreed that fairer and more credible elections could result from positive changes to the electoral process.
The United Nations is not a voting member of the Special Electoral Reform Commission. Its role is to provide advice and technical expertise on the basis of international best practices, while respecting the sovereign right of Afghanistan to make the final decisions on electoral reform.