Report of Conference on Releasing the Declaration of Substantive Principles of Electoral Reform
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.
Similarly, preparation of internal rules of procedure of commission, eliminating distance between people and commission and rebuilding public trust on commission was another priorities of commission based on Mr. Hedayat. After him, Mr. Abdul Khaliq Azimi, representative of Population Census Office, said, “Preparation of voters list is very important and play a key role in transparency of election and whenever the Independent Election Commission request the statistics of population of Afghanistan our office is ready to share the accurate statistics of population of Afghanistan with them but miniaturizing electoral constituencies is difficult. Mr. Abdul Gheyas Wardak, head of administrative units of the Independent Directorate of Local Governances presented information on number of provinces, districts and villages of Afghanistan and said, “ The previous election commission had established 7018 polling centers which is questioning because Afghanistan has 45591 villages and considering the number of villages establishment of non-standard polling centers without considering the number of villages and population of country is not logical.” He then added that the Geodesy and Cartography Office will share the latest maps of all districts of Afghanistan with them and then there won’t be any problems about borders of districts of Afghanistan.
Mr. Hamayoun Mohtat, head of E-ID-card Issuance Office presented information about the recent works of his office which can help in transparency of election. He said, “Our institution has established the national center of identity verification and has just began the digitalization of information about citizens of Afghanistan.” He said that verification of citizens of Afghanistan is very important and added that the Independent Election Commission can also undertake the program of verification of voters’ identity. Mr. Mohtat also said that the E-ID-card Issuance Office has presented a proposal to National Security Council based on which his institution can save the biometric information of citizens in its database and even if E-ID card is not issued, these information can be used and prevent electoral fraud. He also added that their institution plan to change the paper ID-cards to verify the fake ID-cards and said that if this project is completed the Independent Election Commission can use these ID-cards in upcoming elections.
At the end of the conference, the representatives of government said that holding free and fair election is needed and promised to cooperate with electoral commissions in holding transparent election and implementation of electoral reform. It is worth mentioning that the representative of Ministry of Interior Affairs was also invited to attend this conference to talk about security of election and implementation of electoral reform but he didn’t attend the conference.
The conference ended after signature of the declaration of substantive principles of electoral reform by representatives of political parties and civil society organizations and presentation of a copy of the declaration to electoral commissions.
Kabul-December 28, 2016