Afghan youth vote in historic elections

WOMAN VOTING IN THE 2014 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN THE CAPITAL KABUL. PHOTO: UNAMA
A women voting in 2014 presidential election to select her future president at Zarghuna Girls High School polling centre, in the capital, Kabul, Afghanistan (Photo: UNAMA)

Despite rain and security challenges in many parts of the country, Afghans went to the polls on 5 April in Presidential and Provincial Council elections. The election marks the first time in Afghanistan’s history that power is handed from one democratically-elected government to another.

Young Afghans who reached the age of 18 by 2010, and those who have not registered before, were queuing to receive voter cards until 1 April. As nearly two thirds of Afghans are under the age of 25, Afghanistan's youth make up a significant proportion of voters.

Many of these young Afghans left powerful testimonies on UNDP Afghanistan Facebook page in the weeks before the election.

Highlights

  • Close to 4 million voters, about a third of them women, registered.
  • Voter registration centres with separate stations for men and women were established in all provincial capitals and 99% of the districts.
  • More than 5,600 staff, including 34% women, were successfully trained to facilitate voter registration.

One of the first comments came from 21-year-old Feroza from Kabul. She is the only one in her family with a voter’s card.

“I want change that not only brings peace but also good education, freedom and rights for all women of Afghanistan,” she said.

Ghulam, a 27-year-old from Herat, said the elections give Afghans the chance to choose the best person to lead their nations.

“Like other countries, we deserve to have peace, security, welfare and a strong economy,” wrote Ghulam.

Zarmalook, a 23-year-old from Gardez, said he would vote because he wants peace, education and a national army. Fatima, a young woman from Bamyan, confirmed that she would also take part in the elections: “It is my right and as a youth and as a woman to select my own president”.

In Panjshir province, 22-year-old Sardar believes that by voting, Afghans can decide the future of their country.

“I would like everyone to participate in the elections,” he said. Eight candidates contested the presidential elections, while 2,597 provincial council candidates contested 458 provincial council seats nationwide. The Independent Election Commission planned 20,795 polling stations distributed among 6,423 polling centres.

The voter registration organised by the IEC, with technical support provided by the UNDP project -- Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow II (ELECT II) -- resulted in more than 3.8 million extra voters being registered, about a third of them women.

The IEC prepared for distribution 25,000 polling station kits, 54,500 ballot boxes and 50,000 bottles of indelible ink and UV ink used to mark the finger of those who voted, with UNDP support through ELECT-II.

The election also posed a logistical challenge to reach isolated villages with difficult road access in this mountainous country. More than 3,470 donkeys have been used to transport election materials from provinces to remote districts.

The IEC announced an estimated turnout of 58 percent, illustrating the importance of these elections for Afghan people.

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, congratulated the people of Afghanistan as well as the national electoral and security institutions for participating in the country’s “historic moment.”

“This is indeed both a signal and manifestation of the maturity of the people of Afghanistan," said Mr. Kubiš.