As has been well-reported, Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential and provincial council elections were marred by extensive technical difficulties — unconfirmed numbers of eligible voters, inadequate security, vague district and village boundaries, and interference from military and civilian government officials. Yet they also took a heavy financial toll on the system. According to the Joint Task Force on Election Assistance, the direct cost of the first round of voting proved to be especially high — approximately $109 million — for a country that falls amongst the poorest in the world. The task force noted that the average cost per voter (of the 13.5 million who voted) was $8.08. While this figure is lower than the global average for stable and post-conflict democracies ($8.41 per voter), it is much higher than states that have established efficient voting systems ($4.01 per voter).
The Independent Election Commission (IEC), the main body that administers elections in Afghanistan, faced four major challenges in 2014: 1) the inadequate recruitment of temporary non-technical workers on the day of the elections; 2) a lack of balance in the distribution of polling stations across the country; 3) the absence of voter registration lists at the polling centers; and 4) the lack of a reporting mechanism to determine turnout by the end of Election Day.
As Afghanistan prepares to hold elections for the parliament, and possibly for district councils (for the first time), there is an immediate need to improve the election system — an endeavor that first requires a comprehensive needs assessment, starting with the existing electoral structures and processes based on the current electoral laws. As for the discussions about canceling the current election laws through presidential decree, they are unnecessary as the current laws can accommodate changes in the processes and procedures that would bring about significant improvement.
Working within the current framework of election laws — which includes a provision for developing a voter registry — will also help the IEC enhance its reform efforts and recommend technical improvements that will increase the efficiency, transparency, and credibility of the process.
Full Article: Rocking the Afghan Vote | Foreign Policy.