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The Killid Group
Parliamentary Elections, Big DealWritten by
Wednesday, 26 May 2010 11:20
For the second time since the Bonn Accords, Afghans are preparing to cast their ballots in Parliamentary elections. The Registration process for Lower House (Wolosi-Jirga) candidates has just started for a planned September election.
Approximately 249 lower House seats will be strongly contested by opponents from across.
The numerous warlords, war criminals and human rights violators who took part in the first Lower House elections are preparing to secure their seats in Parliament for a second five year term with visits to provincial constituencies.
While the first round of parliamentary election was warmly welcomed by average Afghans, many voters today seem less excited given the repeat of unsavory candidates and memories of corruption left by the recent Presidential elections. Many voters whom we have spoken to throughout the country also point to a concern that the Lower House elections could potentially be marred by corruption and violence.
Another reason for the current lack of enthusiasm is that the many warlords and powerful men who won in the first election, went on to pass the "The National Reconciliation Program" which ensures an absolute immunity for all war criminals and human rights violators' crimes.
Additionally, there is a widely held perception that most Members of Parliament (MP's) are only interested in passing legislation which is in their own personal interests, from increasing salaries, to receiving stipends for cars, homes and personal security while attending to personal businesses outside of their Parliamentary duties. Many MPs, during their historic first term have officially been noted as absent, especially on days when vital legislation is up for a vote. On a number of occasions, Lower House voting sessions have had to be cancelled or postponed because of a lack of MP attendance.
Combined, these perceptions and or realities have lead to a widely held belief amongst Afghans that the majority of Lower House MP's are largely in the job for themselves, not as a public service to their constituents.
Indeed, this current sense of apathy is not unfamiliar to more developed democratic nations. As in those cases, Afghanistan's second parliamentary election will be held with or without voter enthusiasm. Also as with other democracies, unsavory candidates will campaign, some or many will win.
The challenge isn't so much what the candidates' stand for, but what the voters stand for. A greater focus by Afghan civil society to include the domestic press needs to be placed on promoting greater voter awareness of the issues and the candidates.
Civil society actors dedicated to a just and democratic Afghanistan must take the coming weeks and months seriously. First and foremost, they must call public attention to the need to look beyond powerful and wealthy men, towards a set of candidate standards.
Parliamentary candidates should be able to meet criteria's of literacy, being free from a criminal record, human rights abuses or war crimes.
If these standards are not promoted and met, then the next Lower House will look much the same as the first and as a few win, the majority of Afghans will continue to be the losers.
Powerful and wealthy men will always be a reality for politics in Afghanistan and for that matter every other country. The key for Afghans today is to also make room for moderate, skilled public servants and politicians, especially those with a real knowledge of the issues and perhaps most importantly, a genuine political vision for the future.
The Lower House elections scheduled for September are perhaps even more important than the recent Presidential elections because it is ultimately the legislative process which will determine the fate of Afghanistan.
Those MP's who are running to promote themselves are counting on their fellow Afghans to be apathetic and fearful for it is such traits which increase their control of the nation.
More than any other time the past ten years, this is the time for the Afghan voter to open his and her eyes to the realities facing their communities and their nation and seat men and women with a genuine concern and passion for service into the Lower House.