Free & Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) made serious attempts to track the implementation of promises made by the new members of electoral commissions on November 21, 2016 to share the their performance with people. The findings of this report was shared with IEC and citizens through declarations and attending media programs immediately after they happened but this report discuss the cases in details and present specific recommendations for each of them.
Lack of a codified strategic plan in IEC is the major problem of IEC and the new members of IEC haven’t been able to codify a strategic working plan since they appointed as members of IEC. Lack of codified plan in IEC led to postponement of electoral reform, public distrust on electoral commissions and ambiguity in determination of electoral timeline. The following issues indicate that IEC lack strategic work plan.
1. Holding of the first conference by members of the Independent Election Commission on November 28, 2016: Chairman of the Independent Election Commission promised in this conference to prepare the voters’ list, equipoise the polling centers, maintain the transparency of election, keep the impartiality and independent of commission, and make decision about electoral issues in presence of observers/monitors. But he didn’t take any measure to fulfil the promises he made
2. The IEC established 3 committees to fulfil the admin/finance affairs, regional operations and legal affairs on December 3, 2016 but there is no news about the performance of these 3 committees yet.
3. On December 12, 2016, the IEC said they will announce the election date within 3 months but it hasn’t announced the election date yet.
4. Holding coordination meeting with civil society organizations about electoral constituencies and voting cards on February 18, 2017. General points were raised in this meeting but at the end of the meeting the IEC promised to hold another meeting and discuss the issue specifically but they never hold another meeting and wrote a report on miniaturization of electoral constituencies and sent to government without sharing its contents with civil society organizations.
5. Keeping silence before government’s orders about holding of parliamentary election in 2017. The presidency held a meeting on February 12, 2017 where the members of IEC, CEO of government, UN envoy to Afghanistan and some ambassadors of foreign countries attended. The president ordered members of IEC to hold the parliamentary and district council election in 2017 but the IEC didn’t have any reaction in this regard.
Respecting the provisions of laws and procedures
The IEC is obliged to perform its activities based on the provisions of the Constitution and Election Law and observe the procedures made by IEC but the observation findings indicate that the IEC has violated the election law and electoral procedures several times within the past 3 months. Some of the violated cases are follow:
1. Violation of article 22 of the Election Law which is about introduction of 3 qualify candidates for secretariat of IEC to the president.
Based on mentioned article, the IEC introduced 3 candidates of IEC secretariat to the president on December 15, 2016 but whereas the provision of law which emphasizes on agreement of majority of IEC members in selection and introduction of candidates was violated and on the other hand the candidates were not selected through a transparent process, the government urged for introduction 6 other candidates. Then, the IEC obeyed the order of president without considering provision of law and introduced 6 other candidates to the president on March 1, 2016.
2. Violation of the IEC procedure on identification and introduction of 3 candidates of IEC secretariat to the president.
Based on the IEC procedure about identification and introduction of 3 candidates of chief electoral officer of IEC, the IEC had to process identification of qualify candidates of chief electoral officer of IEC in presence of observers and media and the representative of observer organizations must have been members of the identification committee without having the right to vote but the representatives of some limited organizations were invited to only monitor the interview process of shortlisted candidates. Even, the observers were not invited to observe the second interview of shortlisted candidates.
3. Violation of article 35 of the Election Law which is about miniaturization of electoral constituencies or parliamentary and district council elections.
Based on mentioned article, IEC has the authority of miniaturization of electoral constituencies but the IEC delegated the authority of making decision in this regard to government.
4. Violation of paragraph 3 of article 20 of the Election Law.
Based on this paragraph, the IEC must hold open meetings to make decision about electoral timeline, candidates vetting, determination and verification of polling centers, preparation of voters list, determination of electoral constituencies, printing and publication of electoral materials, voting counting and election results announcement. The representatives of civil society organizations, political parties, national and international observers can attend these meetings but the IEC didn’t pave the ground for attendance of observers while it was discussing about determination of electoral constituencies.
Coordination with Election Observation Organizations Based on article 83 of the Election Law, the observers and monitors have the rights of access to information but the IEC didn’t have coordination with FEFA and other civil society organizations when it held meetings to discuss determination of electoral constituencies, determination of voters list, verification of polling centers, usage of technology in election, and holding of consultation meetings and didn’t share the necessary information about these issues with FEFA and other civil society organizations.
Likewise, the IEC had serious problems in sharing information and hasn’t been able to share the necessary information with observer organizations, media and citizens. Problems in this regard is as follow:
1. Unawareness of observation organizations, media and citizens from the performance of admin/finance committee, operational committee and legal affairs committee of IEC which were established in December 3, 2016.
2. The government and IEC discussed usage of technology in election in March 2017 but didn’t give information about usage of technology to people and donors.
3. Lack of inviting professional election observation organizations in important meetings held by government or IEC about electoral issues.
Decision Making About Electoral Issues and Its Impacts on Trust-Building Process
The reason behind implementation of electoral reform and changing the members of electoral commissions was building public trust on electoral commissions and election process. The members of electoral commissions must make serious attempts to make legal & proper decision and keep impartiality of IEC to rebuild public trust on electoral commissions and election process. However, introduction of 9 candidates of chief electoral officer of IEC and changing of head of Paktika election office to Nangarhar on March 8, 2017 indicate IEC members’ inattention to the importance of trust building.
Article 22 of the election law indicate that members of IEC select 3 candidates of secretariat of IEC with majority votes pro but the IEC didn’t do so, violated this article and paved the ground for government intervention. Therefore, the president urged for introduction of 6 other candidates of secretariat of IEC. Similarly, the IEC changed the head of Paktika IEC provincial office (Mr. Zabiullah Wagari) to Nanagarhar IEC provincial office meanwhile everyone remembers the bitter memories of 2014 elections in Paktika where Mr. Wagari was in-charge of IEC office. Changing of Mr. Wagari from Paktika office to Nangarhar office was against the law on civil services and increased doubts on lack of impartiality of IEC members. Similarly, the IEC must have raised and shared the issue of usage of technology in election with others but this issue is raised and followed by government not IEC. Following of usage of technology in election by government violate article 156 of the constitution and is against the principle of independency and impartiality of IEC.
1. The IEC must develop a codified strategic plan for better implementation of its activities considering the following points:
• The programs must be planed based on situation of Afghanistan and considering holding a transparent election;
• Lack of having programs was a problem. The IEC must adopt plans to explain their future programs and make sure the programs will get implemented.
• The programs must be planned in consultation with election professional organizations to create more coordination between them and prevent government’s inattention to electoral issues;
• More attention must be paid to the timeline of the programs to make the IEC and other election relevant organizations to do their activities more accurately;
2. The IEC must act based on the provisions of the Constitution and Election Law and prevent violation of procedures. Likewise, the new procedures must be made based on following criteria:
• The procedures must be made in coordination with election organizations;
• Pave the ground for implementation of laws and prevent creation of problems;
• The procedures must create transparency in activities of IEC;
3. Based on article 156 of the constitution, IEC is an independent commission. Therefore, the IEC must define the indicators which explain the independency of IEC and help IEC to:
• Make decisions independently and perform its duties responsibility;
• Keep the organizational independency of IEC from executive power and enable IEC to set its policies within the framework of law independently;
• Keeping independency must not impact IEC’s accountability to public. The IEC must be an accountable institution to public;
• The IEC remain independent in budget expenditure and prevent interventions in its affairs;
• The IEC remain independent in staff employment and structuring and prevent interventions in these affairs;
• Members of IEC must keep their impartiality and prevent politicians and political parties influence in IEC;
4. The IEC must make serious attempts to engage the electoral professional organizations in electoral issues and create coordination between IEC and them to use their capacity. The IEC must pay attention to following issues in this regard:
• Signature of MoU with election observation organizations to strengthen mutual cooperation;
• Paving the ground for election observation organizations to observer different working stages of IEC based on the law;
• Sharing information with election observation organizations and collection their views about betterment of electoral affairs:
5. The IEC must develop a procedure on employment and changing of its staff and share it with election relevant organizations to consider the following:
• Transparency in employment process and preventing creation of problems and interference;
• Considering gender balance based on meritocracy and professionalism;
6. The media in-charge of IEC must form a professional team to share information with media and citizens on time. The team must have the following the criteria:
• Having information and awareness from electoral issues;
• Update the media and civil society information from activities of IEC on time;
• Having the ability to answer the concerns of stakeholders about electoral issues;
• Attending media programs;
• Attending conference and other electoral programs;
7. At least, the IEC must hold 2 press conferences in a month to put the citizens in picture of its activities. The IEC must:
• Present news and information of IEC to citizens accurately;
• The IEC must present the works it done and explain its future programs/plans;
8. IEC must have the main role in electoral discussion and pave the ground for cooperation of other relevant organizations;
9. The IEC must present the report of its 1395 (Solar year) activities and share its 1396 (Solar year) programs with public.
10. Awareness of election professional organizations, media and citizens from the decisions of IEC play an important role in trust-building, transparency of IEC performance and the principle of accountability. Therefore, the IEC must release the decisions it make through its official website.
The executive director, program manager, senior advisor in election affairs and election officer of FEFA met with members of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) on April 2, 2017. The objective of this meeting was sharing FEFA’s observation findings from performance of IEC over the past 4 months. At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Mohammad Yousuf Rasheed, the executive director of FEFA thanked the members of IEC for facilitating the meeting and said, “Our major findings indicate that lack of a codified and strategic electoral plan in IEC, violation of provisions of law and electoral procedures by IEC, existence of problems in coordination method of IEC with election professional organizations and the way of decision making and its impacts on trust-building on electoral institutions and election process are the major problems.” he urged the members of IEC to undertake the necessary measure to solve these problems and prevent repetition of previous electoral problems in future. Likewise, the impartiality of IEC, preventing from interferences in IEC affairs, making decision about the electoral constituencies, openness of election commission’s meetings, holding of meetings inside IEC, paying attention to the principle of accountability and signature of cooperation MoU with civil society organizations (Which are specialized in election) were also raised by FEFA’s delegations in this meeting. The delegations urged members of IEC to pay attention to mentioned issues and adopt specific plans to overcome the challenges in IEC. Subsequently, the chairperson and members of IEC appreciated FEFA for its impartial works and focus toward election and accepted existence of a series of problems in IEC and promised to make serious attempts to solve the problems. At the end of the meeting a copy of the report was presented to members of IEC to read it in details and share their views and reasons before it officially get published.
Free & Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) held a conference in Intercontinental hotel to release the declaration of Substantive Principles of Electoral Reform. The declaration was prepared in cooperation with representatives of political parties, civil society organizations and media organizations in 5 meetings. The representatives of Electoral Commissions, Independent Directorate of Local Governance, Population Census Office and representatives of the president and CEO of government attended this conference. At the beginning of the conference, the executive director of FEFA talked about electoral reform and duties of electoral commissions and emphasized that the electoral commissions must consider transparency, independency and professionalism in their performance. He also added that the new members of electoral commissions must consider election as a national process not a project.
Subsequently, Mr. Naeem Asghari, election programs manager of FEFA, explained the agenda of conference and read the 41 principles of declaration which related to electoral commissions, government, National Assembly, political parties, civil society organizations, media and international community. Then, panelists of the conference, talked about their institutions working programs toward electoral reform. Mr. Mahazullah Dawlati, member of the Independent Election Commission, talked about delimitation of electoral boundary, balancing polling center, invalidation of voting cards, preparation of voters list and reforming the structure of commission. He also added that they will try to institutionalize election and won’t consider election as a project. Likewise, he urged the civil society organizations and media assist the rebuilding public trust on electoral commissions. Subsequently, Ghulam Dastager Hedayat, member of the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission, promised to use every single opportunity toward holding a transparent election. He added that financial problems is a major challenge in their commission but despite the financial challenges they are pledged to reform the structure of the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission and strengthen the performance of secretariat of this commission.
Implementation of electoral reform is a precondition for rebuilding public trust in election and electoral commission. Therefore, the civil society organizations relevant to election, welcome appointment of new members of electoral commissions and consider it a positive step toward implementation of next phases of electoral reform and rebuilding public trust in the electoral commissions and process. However, implementation of other phases of electoral reform and rebuilding public trust depends on performance of new members based on laws and working values of electoral commissions. The Electoral Organizations Joint Working Group present the following recommendations to new members of electoral commissions to successfully implement the electoral reform process, rebuilding public trust in the electoral commissions and break the barriers before coming elections:
The Women and Youth Political Rights Advocacy Groups held their third joint meeting on June 22, 2016 to finalize the declaration of substantive principles of women and youth meaningful participation in election. The meeting began by reviewing the decisions of previous meeting and subsequently the participants discussed the declaration of substantive principles of women and youth meaningful participation in election. The participants recommended addition of following issues in the declaration:
- Misusing the believes and trust of youth;
- Using youth only during campaigns;
- Lowness of youth awareness;
- Warlords disbelieves on youth;
- Lack of preserving of impartiality of electoral staff which causes youth lose their believes on election process;
- Lack of opportunity for youth to take part in election;
- Distrust between youth;
Facilitator of meeting read each principle of the declaration one by one and the participants shared their views on them.
Principle four: creating educational opportunities for youth
The participants recommended the following cases regarding principle four:
- The government must allocate specific budget for youth’s higher education;
- The government must make sure the university entrance exam is held transparently and the participants of this exam enter universities based on their qualification;
- The government have to pave the ground of equal education for youth;
- The Afghans and international community must believe on youth’s abilities;
Principle 15: Providing economical facilities for youth
The participants recommended the following issues regarding article 15:
- Providing economic facilities for youth in election;
- Legal documents must be added in this article;
Principle 16: maintain youth security in election process
Participants recommended following issues regarding principle 16:
- Maintaining security of election is the duty of Ministry of Interior Affairs, Ministry of Defense and National Directorate of Security;
- The security forces must maintain the security of areas where the reports indicate are insecure;
- Undertaking special measures to maintain the security of insecure areas;
- Maintaining the security of youth candidates and voters;
- Identifying the security weakness of the country and undertaking logical approaches to eliminate them;
Principle 17: The narcotic elimination programs must be undertaken by Ministry of Anti-Narcotics
Participants recommended the following issues regarding article 17:
- The government must suggest the farmers alternative of narcotic;
- The factors of youth addiction to narcotic must be identified;
- The government must try to solve social and economic problems of youth;
- The government must create work opportunities for youth to prevent youth immigration;
- Along with Ministry of Interior Affairs, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Information & Culture, Deputy of Anti-Narcotic, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Health related institutions must have narcotic elimination programs;
Principle 18: creating work opportunities
Participants recommended the following issues regarding article 18:
- Assessment of youth problems and undertaking of specific measures to solve these problems;
- Identification of level of literacy of youth and providing educational facilities for them;
- The Youth Deputy of Ministry of Information and Culture has to create work opportunities for youth
- The policy making bodies must identify youth challenges and develop specific policies in this regard;
- The government along with international organizations must hold internship programs for youth;
Principle 19: Efforts to encourage people trust on youth’s abilities
Participants recommended the following issues regarding article 19:
- The Deputy of Youth Affairs of Ministry of Information and Culture must have specific programs for institutionalizing trusting youth;
- Youth must begin awareness from their families;
- Youth must prove their abilities in society and make the society believe on them;
Principle 20: Lack of youth access to their basic rights
The participants didn’t have specific recommendations regarding principle 20 and agreed with the contents of this principle.
For the second time, Free and Fair Election Forum of Afghanistan (FEFA) is intended to introduce the successful young figures of the year. Therefore, you are kindly requested to fill up the following form for nominating yourself as successful young figure of the year. The forms are subsequently reviewed by a professional committee and those nominees who meet the criteria of successful young figures will be contacted for interview. Please fill and submitte the form before 30 November 2016 - 11:59 pm.
The Women Political Rights Advocacy Group held a meeting with the advisor of chief executive office on Women & Youth Affairs19 Jun 2016
The Women Political Rights Advocacy Group (WPRAG) held a meeting with the advisor of Chief executive on Women & Youth Affairs. The participants of this meeting were MPs, representative of Ministry of Women Affairs, representatives of political parties and civil society. At the beginning of the meeting, Mrs. Surabi advisor of chief executive office on Women & Youth Affairs welcomed the participants of meeting and urged Mrs. Sima Ghani and Mariam Arween to begin the meeting.
Then, Mrs. Ghani said, “Some time ago FEFA held a survey to identify women challenges and evaluate women presence in political leadership level. The findings of this survey was shared with Mrs. Surabi and then Mrs. Surabi urged for sharing it with all WPRAG members to lobby for increasing women presence in political positions.” Mrs. Ghani added that two advocacy groups had prepared a list of elite women who are qualified for working in high political positions and shared with ministries but their work was not fruitful. “The members of WPRAG wanted to know what are women’s weakness to work change them to strengths so the WPRAG established a working committee to evaluate women weakness and prepare a list of elite women who are qualified for working in high political positions. The working committee succeeded to prepare the list within 4 month and now the list is presented to participants.” She said.
Subsequently, Mrs. Mariam Arween, Women & Youth Outreach Officer of FEFA, thanked the Advisor of Chief Executive Office on Women & Youth Affairs for organizing the meeting and said, “The members of working group of Women Political Rights Advocacy Group were Mrs. Sima Ghani (Member of Women Declaration), Mrs. Omaira Saqib (Head of ACCEN), Mrs. Gul Makai Safi (Advisor to chief executive), Mr. Adila Bahram (Chairwomen of Republican Party), Mrs. Parastoo Yari (Secretary of advisor to chief executive), Mr. Roya Sadat (Head of Roya Film), Mr. Amina (Representative of President Administrative Office), Waheda Rasuli (Representative of AWEC), Mariam Arween (Women & Youth Outreach Officer of FEFA) and Wazhma Azizi (Women & Youth Outreach Assistant of FEFA).”
The committee worked on its working plan in its first meeting and agreed to work on following issues:
- Identifying women weaknesses;
- Identifying the list of legal sources on women quota;
- Identifying donors;
- Preparing the list of universities;
- Identifying provinces where women can work as governor;
- Identifying districts where women can work as district governors;
- Identifying ministries, deputies, general directorates and embassies where women can work at top positions;
“We succeeded to prepare the list of elite women within 5 meetings. We contacted women departments of provinces and requested them to share the list of elite women of their provinces with us.” She said.
Mrs. Sima Ghani said, “We planned to prepare the list soon but due to some problems in Ministry of Women Affairs it took 5 months.” She also said, “We prepared the list but wanted to consult with you on insecure provinces where we have a lot of elite women. We want to add the insecure province in our list in consultation with you and then start our lobbying for the list.”
Subsequently, Mrs. Surabi thanked Mrs. Ghani for giving her time to women and said, “We work for a big aim so Ministry of Women Affairs has to cooperate with us.” She said we must work warily to not face any sensitivity.
Mrs. Ghani added that if women are assigned in higher positions in provinces then the society will become ready to accept them in decision makings.
Mrs. Karokhi, MP, said, “We must consider the situation of country and then take approach to not face any sensitivity.” She also said, “We must acknowledge our weaknesses and try to change them to strengths. Symbolic assignment of women can negatively impact hundreds of young women who are in promotion.”
Mrs. Sajia, advisor to chief executive office said, “The committee has done a great work. We need to work on this list first and then add the other lists to it. We must share this list with ministries.” She promised that the chief executive office can share the list with ministries and set coordination meetings with ministries and the Directorate of Local Governance for WPRAG.
Mrs. Safi, member of WPRAG, said, “The committee must share the list with members of WPRAG and urge them to add their lists to it.
At the end of the meeting the group agreed on following issues:
- Requesting the list of elite women from the Independent Directorate of Local Governance through an official letter;
- Holding a meeting with the Independent Human Rights Commission and Civil Society Network to request the list of elite women from them;
-Holding a grand meeting of the WPRAG chair by Mrs. Habiba Surabi and sharing the final list with members of the group;
- Holding advocacy meetings with president and chief executive
For urgent release/ June 13, 2016
Unfortunately, Wolesi Jirga rejected the presidential decree on amendment of the Law on the Structure, Duties and Authorities of Electoral Commissions for the second time. This decision of Wolesi Jirga is considered rejection of election and democracy in the country. This irresponsible act of Wolesi Jirga proved that MPs do not value public demands. People expected the Wolesi Jirga to make decision about this decree deeming the prestige of this house and put an end to the electoral reform deadlock. The reports from international meetings/summits on Afghanistan’s electoral reform indicate that the international community is not satisfied with the progress made yet. The international community will make new commitments to Afghanistan and its people in two important conferences (Warsaw and Brussels) but this decision of Wolesi Jirga will negatively impact the support and donations of international community to Afghanistan. FEFA consider this act of Wolesi Jirga deplorable and present the following recommendations to government and Meshrano Jirga of National Assembly:
1. FEFA urge Meshrano-Jirga to not make the decision of Wolesi Jirga about the decree. Meshrano-Jirga is recommended to make decision about this decree in consultation with election relevant organizations, political parties, people and considering the needs for electoral reform and holding of election. The proper decision of Meshrano-Jirga about this decree can solve the problems and pave the ground for electoral reform and holding of election;
2. The government of Afghanistan can again recourse to the Supreme-Court and the Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of Constitution and urge for interpretation of article 79 of Constitution. FEFA believe that whereas both electoral laws have common basis therefore according to article 109 of Constitution, proposals for amendments of these laws cannot be included in the working agenda of the National Assembly during the year of the legislative period;
3. Proposals for amendments of the electoral law cannot be included in the working agenda
If, all legal approaches face deadlock, the government along with all stakeholders must take a proper and logical approach to solve the problem. This approach must pave the ground for implementation of electoral reform and holding of election;
4. FEFA seriously urge the president and chief executive of the National Unity Government to implement the commitments they have made about electoral reform to people of Afghanistan and international community. They are also urged to prevent complicating the electoral reform issue;
5. The National Unity Government must make a specific decision about the fate and continuation of work of current electoral commissioners. Considering the attempts of commissioners for sabotaging the electoral reform process the continuation of their work as commissioners need a revision;
FEFA urge all citizens of Afghanistan, civil society organizations, civil activists, political elites and political parties to lobby for electoral reform which is a national critical issue and never give up. We must put the necessary pressures on government and other relevant institutions to persuade them for implementation of electoral reform.
According to the Constitution, the government must have held the parliamentary and district council elections on March 21, 2015 but due to delay in commencement of electoral reform process, the election date postponed. Subsequently, the IEC announced August 14, 2016 as Election Day but this announcement was made without coordination with government and electoral stakeholders. Therefore, it faced serious national and international objection. After, postponement of election, the National Unity Government extended the working duration of parliament through a legislative decree to prevent parliamentary gap. Scares from repetition of 2014 electoral challenges led the government consider electoral reform more important than election. However, the leaders of NUG had promised to begin the electoral reform program immediately after structure of their government but they didn’t do so. NUG established the Special Electoral Reform Commission (SERC) one and half year after the structure of government.
SERC prepared two recommended packages on electoral reform and presented them to government for consideration and implementation. The work of SERC ended after presentation of the second package.
The political agreement on structure of NUG has guaranteed implementation of electoral reform. After the second round of 2014 presidential election faced deadlock the two leading campaigns of run-off structured a NUG based on a political agreement. They agreed to reform the electoral system and amend the electoral laws, do census of the population, begin issuance of E-Tazkera, hold Loy-Jirga of amendment of Constitution, and change the political system into parliamentary system through a political agreement. Article 5 of the agreement includes president’s commitment for electoral reform to assure transparency of upcoming elections. The leaders of government promised to establish the SERC to reform the electoral system of Afghanistan before holding the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections. This commission will present its recommendations to chief executive and the chief executive will present it to the cabinet.