The process of voter registration in each province of Afghanistan is full of challenges and problems. Security which is one such problem, has made the electoral process in insecure provinces to be one of the most challenging segments of the elections that are to take place on 20th October 2018. A lack of participation in the election has raised questions about its inclusivity and generality.
Farah, which has repeatedly witnessed massive insurgents’ attacks, is one of the provinces with the lowest voter registration. According to Farah officials, the process of voters’ registration is carried out only in the central part of the province, and elsewhere it is in control of the insurgents.
Low Voter Registration in Farah
“The process of registering and tagging stickers to Tazkeras (Afghan ID cards) has been completed, but what was expected in this province did not take place,” said Dadullah Qane, a member of the Farah Provincial Council. “The province faces meagre security measures and few people have participated in the registration because many areas in Farah province are controlled by the insurgents and the central government is not paying much attention to this area.”
Meanwhile, the voter registration process in Farah province coincided with the collapse of the center of the province for the second time. This made Farah authorities neglect the process of registering voters which in turn ended up in the closure of all voter registration centers in Farah.
“Two reasons have led the Farah province to have the lowest voter registration rates,” said Baryalai Ghaffari, director of the Civil Society Organization Network of Farah province, “First, Farah province is one of the most insecure provinces in the country, in which there are clashes going on day and night. The registration process in the province did not go well, as it simultaneously coincided with the fall of the province, and for 15 days, all polling stations were blocked. ”
According to him, after Farah province was regained by the government, the opportunity was not given again to the citizens of this province to execute the registration process.
Mr. Ghaffari pointed out to the second reason behind the low number of voters in Farah: “The second reason was the people’s lack of awareness of the voter registration process; the election commission did not provide people with enough information about the electoral process. These shortcomings have caused a large number of people in Farah to forego registration. ”
According to the director of Farah Civil Society Organizations Network, the process of registering voters was conducted only in few parts of Farah province. However, the spokesman for the governor of Farah, Mohammad Naser Mehri has denied this by saying that the registration process has been carried out in all parts of Farah province, except for Parchaman district.
Candidates and Citizens of Farah
There would be 5 representatives in the Afghan parliament for Farah province, out of which, 1 female and 4 male candidates would be elected. In the third round of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, 42 people candidates are going to compete for the House of Representatives from Farah Province, of whom 3 are women.
Farah is also one of the provinces where women, despite the difficult circumstances, have shown interest in the voter registration process. In Farah Province, with a population of 1.2 million, only 66,321 voters have registered, of which 23,645 are women.
Provincial Officials are citing the reason behind the lack of registration of voters as the displacement of Farah’s Residents after the fall of the province and the blockade of all polling centers in the districts.
The director of Civil Society Organizations in Farah province told Khabarnama that except for the center, which is in the hands of the government, the rest of the Farah province is not controlled by the security forces and there was no voter registration process conducted in these areas.
But in response to this, the spokesman for the provincial governor, Mohammad Naser Mehri reminded that in order to participate in the upcoming elections,Tazkera distribution and sticker tagging centers were established, except for the Porchaman district which is under the control of the armed opposition. According to him, in other districts where polling stations were blocked, this process was carried out in cooperation with the people and the security forces.
However, Farah civil society activists also told Khabarnama about the process of distributing the Tazkera: “There was no problem in the distribution of the Tazkera, because the candidates placed the Central Statistics staff in their offices to ensure the distribution of Tazkera to all the residents. However, we think that there was also some fraud there because each person could have easily achieved as many Tazkira as he wants. Due to this, the transparency of the upcoming elections has been questioned. ”
43 Polling Centers
According to the Independent Election Commission in Farah province, the number of established centers for the voting day and the registration process amounts to 224.According to the director of Civil Society Organizations Network in Farah, Baryalai Ghaffari, only 70 of the centers were open and it is still unknown how many of them are open after the fall of Farah.
However, Mr Mehri announced that currently 43 voter centers are active in the province, and security authorities are trying to reach more areas and that is possible to open more centers on elections day.
However, some members of the Farah Provincial Council informed Khabarnama that with the current security scenario in Farah, it’s possible that up to 20 percent of Farah’s citizens would not be able to participate on elections day.
Insurgents at the Gates of the City
The director of Farah Civil Society Organizations says that there are insurgents in a radius of 4 to 6 kilometers from the center of the province, and the rest of the area is also in the hands of the insurgents. At the center, only the district and the provincial compound are under the control of the government to the extent that district mayors of Farah province do not go to these areas at all. In Farah, only ANP, ANA, police commanders, and a handful number of employees are practically present while other institutions do not have any authority or operations.
But Mohammad Naser Mehri told Khabarnama that, “The security situation in Farah province has been deteriorating only recently and the insurgents have carried out strikes in Farah province. It is unknown whether the opposition is located a few kilometers to the center, or up to 8-12 kilometers, far from Farah center. We are not sure up till what distance the center of province is surrounded by armed opponents. ”
The Impending Challenge
From the point of view of the authorities in Farah, the biggest elections challenge in the province is the security and potential fraud, which makes people less likely to participate as voters on elections day. People have become wary of voting because of the neglect that the province has faced at the hands of the central government. Another plausible reason for a seemingly low voter turnout might be the presence of perilous opposition at various entry points of the cities.
However, the spokesman for Farah province has reiterated the preventive measures that are taken by the provincial governor and police commander, “There is currently no serious problem, the security authorities have taken their measures and are trying to clear more areas so that everyone can participate in the election process. In other districts, there is no serious problem, except for the district of Porchaman, in which the insurgents are ruling, and clearing the area requires a long-term plan and more troops, but we are also trying to make the district of Porchaman available to the government.”