After a long gap of three years, Afghanistan is facing a fresh set of elections, which were organised across the country on October 20, 2018. While the elections gave a new ray of hope to all those who support democracy, there are also serious concerns about the ability of the Afghanistan government to carry forward electoral reforms and the process of strengthening of the democratic system. Following the controversy that was attached to the 2014 presidential elections, there was a stalemate in Afghanistan regarding how the country should organise elections. The capabilities of Afghanistan Election Commission along with the weakened police forces and the military backup made the elections vulnerable to the threats from the Taliban militants.
Since Taliban was ousted from power in 2001, this is the fourth major election that happened in the country. As Afghanistan finished its electoral process, the whole world looked towards this war-torn country and its democratic future. In lieu of the 2019 presidential elections, these elections are also important as they will check the ability of the nation to overcome the first step of democracy—conducting free and fair elections. Many countries including United States and its NATO allies have expressed serious concerns regarding the importance of carrying out of free and fair election in the country. Election will happen in different phases and though the election process was finished October 20, the final results will be declared only by December 20. This gap has been taken to ensure that the election is conducted in a free and fair manner and is not affected by the threats from Taliban.
Since the US invasion of 2001, Afghanistan has been reduced to nothing but a collection of several destabilized provinces which have a lot of internal problems; adding to this are the frequent attacks from Taliban, which despite having been ousted from the power for the past two decades, it is still a strong force in the region. It carries out frequent attacks against the government’s forces, which often come at the cost of several casualties amongst civilians as well as the armed forces. Afghanistan is also going through a serious political instability as several tribes and clans within the country often fight each other for attaining dominance. Other issues include the regional instability and the growing mistrust between the neighbouring countries over how to handle domestic issues of Afghanistan.
Since 2014, following the rise of the influence of the Islamic State in the Middle East region, there has been a huge polarization in the region where the world itself is taking sides. On one hand you have countries like Russia, Syria, and their supporters, rallying and fighting against the expansion of US influence, while on the other, you have the United States and the NATO countries that are fighting against the ISIS as well as the regional governments of Syria and Iran. This complexity has become a common feature of the of the Middle East region since the start of the 21st century, and is only growing with time.
While things outside the Afghan parliament are highly insecure and unstable, there is a silver lining about the election process as well as the newly elected Parliament. Many of the candidates who are contesting in the elections are doing so as independent candidates, and not under the backing of a particular political party. Moreover, these candidates are largely young men and women who are highly educated and also working professionals. This is evident from the fact that in the city of Kabul, where there are more than 800 candidates contesting for 33 seats out of which, more than 60% are below the age of 35 years. Furthermore, the Afghan constitution also reserves 27% of the total seats in the Parliament for women, thus ensuring they have fair representation.
Such changes, when seen as a whole in the long-run, will definitely help Afghanistan to rebuild itself as the vibrant, powerful, diverse, and democratic country it used to be. Elections in Afghanistan are also crucial for several neighbouring countries including India, as a strong and stable Afghanistan would not only mean that India will have a stronger influence and role in South Asia, but it will also help contain the growing influence of China and Pakistan in Central and West Asia. Thus, these elections to determine the members of Afghan Parliament have wider implications in the long-run not just towards the stability of Afghanistan, but also for the prosperity of the central Asian region and its constituent countries.
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