News Analysis |
Parliamentary elections were held in Afghanistan, on 20th October 2018. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), had announced parliamentary election would be held in October 2018; almost three years after the expiry of sitting parliament’s five-year mandate. Following the bitterly contested Presidential election in 2014, both candidates; President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah agreed to the major overhaul of Afghan electoral system before conducting new parliamentary elections.
United Nation’s General Secretary had highlighted the need for free and fair elections terming them necessary for Afghan political cohesion. President Ghani had vowed to hold parliamentary elections before Presidential elections slated for 2019. Total of 2650 candidates are to contest elections for 250 seats in the house of people, termed as Wolesi Jirga. Preliminary results are expected by November 10, 2018, while final results are to be announced by December 20, 2018.
Release of Taliban’s founding leader and death of Taliban’s strongest enemy, General Razeq, will have immense impact on upcoming Presidential elections.
The 2018 elections are the third parliamentary elections in post-Taliban Afghanistan. According to the official count (each legislative period has its number), this is the 17th in the country’s history. It is not clear which election was counted as the first. According to BBC’s Pashto service on 9 October 2018, the first parliament under the currently used name Shura-ye Melli was established under King Muhammad Nader Shah (1929-33) with 111 members.
However, it is clear that the first relatively free vote was held in 1949 that established the seventh parliament. Women voted for the first time in 1965 for the tenth parliament. The elections will take place in 33 out of the country’s 34 provinces. The exception is Ghazni province. The kuchis (nomads) constitute another countrywide constituency. Elections were earlier scheduled for July 2018, but were postponed due to serious security issues.
Election day was marred by deadly bombing and rocket attacks; killing and severely injuring over 170 people. In Kabul alone 18 people were killed and 67 were injured in bomb blasts near polling stations. Two days before elections; an attack in Kandahar left Province’s governor, NDS chief, and Police chief General Razeq dead. Elections in Kandahar were postponed till October 27, 2018.
Preliminary results are expected by November 10, 2018, while final results are to be announced by December 20, 2018.
General Razeq was a strongman, a warlord who ruled southern Afghanistan with iron fist. His death, once again casted a shadow over viability of holding elections, when half of the country is under Taliban rule. These elections need to be understood in conjunction with on-going Afghan reconciliation process.
On October 25, 2018 Pakistan released Taliban’s deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Kabul have been demanding his release for quite some time; to aid peace process. Office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in its report published in January 2018, had underlined that Taliban controlled nearly half of Afghan districts.
Release of Taliban’s founding leader and death of Taliban’s strongest enemy, General Razeq, will have immense impact on upcoming Presidential elections. Appointment of US special representative Zalmay Khalilzad is of great importance too. Both Pakistani and Afghan governments alongside Trump administration; are trying to find an amicable solution to bring peace in region; but violence witnessed on election day suggest otherwise.