Afghanistan Experiences Uncertainty Following President Election By Phillip Howard
Recent Afghan elections resulted in no clear winner and low voter turnout compared to the last presidential election in 2014. Both presidential candidates claimed victory, incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. This has produced prolonged uncertainty as votes are tallied.
Ghani and Abdullah faced a similar situation in 2014 and agreed to a power-sharing arrangement. Both have publicly stated they will do not so again following this election.
Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) estimated only 2.2 million votes were cast, approximately 20 percent of the electorate. “The turnout was the lowest than any other election in the past 18 years,” said Sughra Saadat, program manager for the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan. “Turnout was low even in secure areas where more people voted in the past.”
A combination of security concerns, fear of fraud, and voting irregularities contributed to low turnout. Michael Kugelman, a researcher at the Wilson Center, said “the low turnout underscores two of Afghanistan’s greatest challenges, which have haunted Afghanistan for years: the relentless threat of violence and popular mistrust of political leaders.”
On top of this, a new law required eligible voters be photographed before voting. Authorities claimed the measure was passed to prevent identity fraud. Objections were raised, especially among women, and their male relatives in conservative rural areas of the country, over tribal and religious customs forbidding women from exposing themselves to men they are not related to or the public.
Taliban insurgents control more of the country than at any other point since they were overthrown. This creates an added level of tension, while the Taliban is involved with ongoing negotiations with the United States regarding a potential peace deal, which does not involve the Afghan government.
The official results are expected to be tallied by October 19.
Phillip Howard is a graduate student at Utica College