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Billboard Blitz Leaves Voters Cold

Kabul city is plastered with election posters. Candidates running in the September elections to the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, are promising to bring heaven on earth in Afghanistan. Kabul city is plastered with election posters. Candidates running in the September elections to the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, are promising […]

نویسنده: TKG
14 Aug 2010
Billboard Blitz Leaves Voters Cold

Kabul city is plastered with election posters. Candidates running in the September elections to the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, are promising to bring heaven on earth in Afghanistan.

Kabul city is plastered with election posters. Candidates running in the September elections to the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of parliament, are promising to bring heaven on earth in Afghanistan.

Are these empty slogans? Are voters to believe the promises that range from social justice to rule of law, security, equitable growth, women’s rights and gender equality?

Afghanistan’s politicians need to watch their words. As a first-time candidate to the Wolesi Jirga engineer Eshaq Ali Jamal has realised voters are not willing to take politicians at their word. They are not ready to believe even first timers like him, he observes.

“When you speak with the people they complain that former MPs have not done anything and new candidates who win the election will not do anything either,” he says.

Abdul Razaq, who works with a non-governmental organization (which he did not want to identify), cynically observes, “Most of the slogans will never be implemented.”

Nevertheless, the city is awash with campaign posters. Billboards fight for space on every roundabout, main road and big building.

 

Hollow words

Wakil Ahmad, a resident of Kabul, believes, “most of the candidates are misleading people.”

The concerns they voice are beyond their authority as members of parliament (MPs), he adds. How can an MP enforce security, employment and equitable development, which are the job of the government, he points out.

Take the promises made by candidate Mohammad Hashim Karimi on the posters that carry his picture. The message he has chosen to send voters is that he is committed to “Trying hard to fight against corruption and root it out of the society. Presenting practical and scientific plans to improve the national economy and reduce poverty.”

Ahmad Shakid Haidari, another candidate, has chosen security as his campaign issue. “Trying to ensure individual security and nationwide security in the country”, his posters promise.

Mrs. Qadria Yazdan Parast has selected “There will always be someone to uplift” as her election slogan, while Fraidoon Elham Sarwari’s slogan is “It will be and we can”.

Political observer Sayed Jawad Husseini feels promises like these reveal a general lack of understanding among candidates of their functions as MPs . The Afghan parliament has power to legislate, and does not have executive powers.

“Some of the candidates have been nominated by political parties or business interests to serve their interests,” he believes. “They do not have any motive in terms of people’s advocacy.”

Unlike many other parts of the world, candidates in Afghanistan rarely take to the street to campaign. But last week, curious Kabulis were treated to the unusual sight of an orderly procession of some 300 people marching in dense traffic, each one with their candidate’s poster pinned to their shirt.

While candidates in the election have launched a high-publicity campaign, Abdullah Afghan, a student at Kabul University, says, “Allah knows what they will do after they win the elections.”

 

Posters plaster the city

Everywhere candidates have put up billboards indiscriminately in an effort to grab as many eyeballs as possible.

While the majority of posters have the candidate’s picture, some billboards have neither photograph nor slogan, just the candidate’s election symbol and number.

According to Sayed Abas Musavi, head of marketing in Negah TV, “These candidates want to catch the viewer’s eye by being different. Later they (may) put a slogan or other campaign material.”

Other would-be parliamentarians use pictures of political or religious leaders on their posters – a bid to win the support of those constituencies.

One candidate in Kabul has pictures of two political and tribal leaders in the background. Curiously, while both are now dead, they were bitter rivals when they were alive.

Zia Danish, a journalist and political commentator, concludes that this only reveals that candidates are not serious about the parliamentary process and whether or not they have the qualifications to become MPs.

“If a prospective MP is dependent on a tribal leader for support, he will not be able to put national interests (before narrow tribal interests) in parliament,” he observes.

There is a concern that those who choose to campaign less publicly can be eclipsed by rivals with more and bigger billboards.

Esmattullah Hashimi, a student at Kateb University, wonders if the poster blitz will prove counterproductive for Afghanistan’s emerging democracy.

“The negative reactions of Afghan voters (to the posters) could affect their participation (in voting), and who they choose as the best candidate to represent them in parliament.”

 

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