Provincial Councils 2014: How did the women do? [1]

The ratification of a new electoral law – while a step forward in many ways – caused a fair bit of concern last year as the quota for women in provincial councils was decreased from 25% to 20% (see here). In addition to this, the formal powers allocated to PCs have recently been limited to oversight and monitoring. Nevertheless, the PC elections were fiercely contested again – with 2591 candidates competing for 458 seats. Compare this with 3025 candidates competing for 420 seats in 2005, and it’s significantly less people campaigning – but the proportion of women candidates increased from 8% in 2005 to 12% in 2014.

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Early Responses to Preliminary Results

As IEC preliminary results continue to suggest that no candidate is close enough to the 50% threshold to avoid a run off, politicians and voters are beginning to debate the likelihood and utility of the run.  At the same time, however, rumors continue to swirl about the potential of a deal between candidates that would avoid such a process.  The debate increasingly is over whether avoiding a run off will facilitate stability in such a way that it is worth undermining the legitimacy of the electoral process by skipping the run off.  Candidates like Abdullah continue to play multiple angles simultaneously hinting that they want to see the process through while alluding both to the corruption of the counting process and the ways in which a deal could facilitate transition (See for example “Run offs would be a waste of time: Abdullah“).

At the same time, however, there are positive Continue reading

Death of the Auto-Voting Caravan ?

In the elections of 2009 and 2010, one of the more picturesque and celebratory scenes was at the gates of Kabul, where crowds gathered to fill vans headed north. The vans were plastered with campaign posters and many flew Afghan flags. Essentially, these cars were offering free rides to voters headed north, particularly to the Panjshir and Parwan provinces (within easy driving distance of Kabul). These cars and vans were organized by the campaigns of provincial council and parliamentary candidates, hoping to get voters to vote in polling stations to the north. Since in Afghanistan you can vote at whatever polling station you want (with some complications with the nomad vote), to vote for a candidate in your home province you need to go there. As a result, candidates from provinces like Panjshir, since many Panjshiris have moved to Kabul, look to bring voters back home to vote for them. This, of course, sometimes backfires – one young man proudly told me he had taken a ride from one candidate, but voted for a different one – but does result in a rather cheerful scene of voters crammed into cars racing across the plains north of Kabul.

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This year, however, there were many fewer cars and Continue reading

Excerpts from an Interview with a Provincial Council Candidate

[From the day after voting.]

“Compared with previous elections the people’s participation in this election gave me great hope and showed a shift in how people are thinking about politics…Personally I am very happy with yesterday’s elections.  It is not so important to me whether I win or not.  What is important is the high turnout, the sincere way that voters approached the election and their interest.  Even though in the past the government and provincial councils have done little for the people and a high turnout rate was not expected, still people came out peacefully and in great numbers.

One of the more disappointing aspects of the vote was Continue reading

What’s going on in Dasht-e Barchi: a deep dive

Not many areas of Kabul have earned a reputation for mobilizing around elections as much as Dasht-e Barchi. Home to a majority Hazara population, in 2009, 2010 and now 2014 this has been a hotbed of electoral activity. But just what exactly is going on?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the presidential vote centres on the Abdullah campaign, although reasons people give for supporting him include not only his inclusion of old-guard Hazara leader Mohammed Mohaqqeq but that he represents a new precedent. As a first non-(or half) Pashtun leader, Abdullah would symbolize a change in the commonly-assumed mantra that only a Pashtun could be president. Following this, many DB residents claim, a Hazara or Uzbek candidate could put up a serious campaign in 2019.

Maybe more interesting in this part of town is the way in which the Provincial Council polls are playing out. As most of DB’s residents are migrants from other parts of Afghanistan – namely, different provinces in the central highlands – much of the political mobilization that goes on takes place around communities that form around these places of origin. This has resulted in a highly localized set of groups that not only stand for entire districts in Bamiyan, Maidan Wardak and Ghazni, for example, but also represent much smaller geographical areas within these districts. And for the PC elections, each smaller area is attempting to put forward one (and only one) candidate to ensure a win for their home town. In a system based on the enormous constituency of an entire province, this is the DB communities’ way of ensuring representation by making their own de facto constituencies.

Also, not many Continue reading