Shaharzad Akbar is a member of the new Kabul-based political movement 1400, led by Afghanistan’s younger generation. She describes the anticipation among Kabul’s youth in the run-up to the vote.
I will go out to vote in exactly 9 hours and I can barely wait. Tomorrow, on the morning of Saturday April 5th, women and men in every corner of my country, Afghanistan, will go out to vote for their favorite presidential and provincial council candidates, but beyond that, they will step out to vote for a democratic transfer of power despite the Taliban threats and insecurity of the past few months. Tomorrow, Afghanistan will win the elections if people decide to turn up and endorse the process as the only legitimate means of transfer of power in a country where power and war used to go hand in hand.
My generation, the new generation of Afghanistan is certainly more engaged in this election compared to the 2009 elections. Media, and particularly social media clearly confirm this and so do observations of the past two months of the campaigns. This afternoon (the day before election day), I went to a cafe to visit a friend. Despite the tight security situation, a group of youth had gathered in one of the rooms. They were discussing the question of the best candidate. All the young people were from the same ethnic group, but they did not agree on the same candidate. Each candidate’s supporters highlighted the candidate’s strength, referring to the candidate’s team composition, his performance in the debates and his stance on the Taliban, the economy and Afghanistan’s regional elections. I sat there for hours, listening to these young people trying to convince each other and to finalize their own decisions. We also spoke of fraud and insecurity, but none of these issues seemed to have any bearing on the decision of these young people to vote. All these young people and millions more, will go out to vote in all corners of Afghanistan. All of us have pinned some of our hopes and dreams for a stable Afghanistan to credible elections and democratic transfer of power.
That said, it is also important to remember what elections can not do for Afghanistan. Will elections solve all our problems? No. Are we concerned about the post-election situation? Yes. Is the winner going to bring radical positive changes to our lives? No. Are there concerns about fraud? Yes. Despite all that, is this election the most significant national process? Yes. For through this election, we are hoping to institutionalize the peaceful and democratic transfer of power. Through this election, we are hoping to ensure the continuation of democratic stability. Through this election, we want to say no to terrorism. Through this election, we want to prove to ourselves and to the world, that as a nation, we are capable of transferring power without violence. Thus, regardless of who wins the elections, for me as a citizen, if there is good turn out and if the post-election disputes are resolved legally, we have won as a nation. And then, with the new government, we will still have to face all the problems that we have today, and maybe even more, but we will be, as a nation, more confident about overcoming them, after we have taken lead in ensuring the democratic stability of the country.