Elections are the easiest, cheapest, and most commonly employed means for facilitating people’s political participation in a country. Citizens’ meaningful participation in political processes holds a clear indication of democratic sustainability in society. Elections are characterized by their ability to transfer authority and power from one party to another with peace and harmony; however, in its absence, serious political problems and challenges may be aroused. Therefore, citizens’ meaningful participation in elections is one of the key attributes and cornerstone of all true democratic societies.
Experiencing 6 rounds of elections has not been enough to address the challenges and gaps in this important process, which is why after each election citizens have lost their trust and confidence because of a serious upsurge in electoral fraud and violation. The incumbent Afghan government along with the international community and election management bodies have failed miserably to restore citizens’ trust in the process.
TEFA with the help of its 47 provincial partners, over a course of 3 months, conducted a nationwide survey on the coming 2019 elections to capture and share a clear picture of citizens’ will on whether or not they are to take part in the coming election and to whom they are planning to vote. The results of this survey are legitimate and justifiable, and therefore must be considered by all afghan election stakeholders mainly the incumbent Afghan government, international community, EMBs, and presidential candidates. It is worth mentioning that this is the first survey for the 2019 election, and once the results of it circulate thoroughly, TEFA will then conduct a second survey to see if people’s perceptions have changed after the campaign period.
This survey was made possible through three research methods namely online questionnaires, offline questionnaire, and focus group discussions, whereby each of the methods revolved around the following three main questions:
- Are you willing to participate in the coming 2019 Presidential Election?
- If yes, whom would you vote for?
- If no, what are your reasons for not participating in the coming election?
In this survey, we had 5200 participants in which 2814 were interviewed online and the remaining 2150 were interviewed offline, and 236 more were invited for detailed FGDs on the 2019 Presidential Election. Soon after the survey was complete, all the offline questionnaires were received from the 47 provincial coordinators and were handed over to TEFA’s research team for deep scrutiny and analysis of the findings which are presented as follows:
- All 34 provinces were covered in this survey, however, because of security threats, in 8 provinces the questionnaires were answered in the capital cities of these provinces only.
- A total of 5200 participated in this survey, out of which, 67% were male and the remaining 33% were female participants.
- 64% of the participants were between the ages of 18-35, 29% of them were around 35-55, and the remaining 7%o of the participants were above 55 years of age.
- 55% of the participants were self-employed, 27% of them were public and private sector employees, and the remaining 18% of them were university students.
- 34.12 of the participants were master and bachelor degree holders, 41.43% of them were high school graduates, and the remaining 24.45% had basic education.
With one simple question having three main components, TEFA managed to know about citizens’ willing to participate in the coming 2019 Presidential elections, see which candidate leads the race so far, and to also find out about why some citizens are unwilling to take in the coming election. By interviewing 5200 participants and analyzing the findings, this survey concluded with the following results:
- 57.13% of the participants have no interest in the coming election and will not vote to any of the presidential candidates.
- 42.87% of the participants will participate in the 2019 election. In the following table, presidential candidates have been listed in descending order in terms of the number of potential votes each have received:
Those who expressed no interest in the coming election justified their lack of participation with the following reasons:
- EMBs’ have no freedom or the required capacity to hold the coming 2019 election.
- The incumbent government and its teams are trying to sabotage the 2019 presidential election in their own favor and at the expense of others.
- Elections are symbolic and metaphoric in which citizens’ votes are meaningless.
- The peace process is pre-dominantly given priority over elections, making the coming election contingent upon a possible peace deal.
- Elections have always been a hideous cause for citizens’ life adversities.
- Serious upsurge in electoral fraud and unjust especially in the recent 2018 parliamentary elections.
- Citizens’ votes were sacrificed for a political deal in the 2014 Presidential election
- Severe security threats and challenges
- The National Unity Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan failed to keep its promise, walk its talk and meet citizens’ expectations.
- Candidates, be it of any election, have always made unrealistic and fake promises to the general public.
Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) will conduct a second survey during the presidential campaign period and will release the results of it only 2 days prior to the 2019 E-Day. Because the pre-election condition and citizens’ interest in the coming election are not ideal, TEFA, therefore, suggests the following:
- Presidential candidates should pursue the interest of the electoral process instead of their own selfish personal interests so that citizens could participate in a much ideal electoral process.
- IEC must enforce the law equally on all presidential candidates and should strictly refrain from any biased act, and must work autonomously while avoiding all sorts of external interventions for restoring citizens’ long lost trust.
- Despite all security threats and challenges, Afghan security forces must develop a coordinated security plan for the campaign period and as well as for the 2019 E-Day and must act accordingly.
- Both the incumbent president and CEO of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan should respect the campaign code of conduct set out by the law and must refrain from using any government resources for their campaigns.
- Media should not be solely after making talks more and more controversial and pressing, they should rather focus on providing citizens with awareness on the electoral process for its betterment.
- The international community, as a global umbrella for addressing global issues, must take a clear stance on two of the most important and most pressing issues of Afghanistan (Peace and Election) and should declare its honest and generous support for the 2019 presidential election.