The Many Ordeals of Pre-election Faryab: Too Many People, Too Few Voters

President Ghani has allocated 100 million Afghanis to implement development projects and 5 thousand tons of wheat to the province of Faryab on Sunday. In a meeting with Faryab Province officials in Kabul, the President declared that more aid will be provided  in various development areas and better security measures would be enforced in the province.

After the meeting at Arg, Governor of Faryab, Naqibullah Fayeq, talked to Khabarnama, about grave challenges that volatile province has been facing. While referring to a long-drawn drought in Faryab he said, “The drought in Faryab province has caused many citizens to suffer and had also claimed the livestock.”

According to him, the drought has caused 16,000 families to migrate to the center of the province. It also caused 80 percent of its farmers their agricultural products, and compelled them to reside in the central city of Maimana in Faryab.

The Governor of Fayrab has predicted that that winter this year in Faryab province would be one of the harshest winters of the last 40 years because of food security concerns. Many sick children and mothers might not get enough food and this may lead to deaths in the region.

According to Mr. Fayeq, despite the fact that the aid provided by the government agencies has been effective for the citizens of Faryab, it is still inadequate for all residents of this province.

In addition to the drought problem in Faryab, security challenges have also been a cause of concern in the city, alerting the authorities and citizens in the province.

Naqibullah Fayeq, Governor of Faryab

In such a situation, the people of Faryab are encouraged to go to the ballot stations and cast their vote for a better future.

2,00,000 Voters in a Population of 2 Million

In the coming election of October 20, which is only 19 days away, 62 candidates will compete in Faryab Province to reach the House of Representatives, of which 19 are women.

The share of parliamentary seats from Faryab province is 9, of whom three must be women. Meanwhile, only 200,000 voters registered in Faryab province, of which 90,000 are women. The total estimated population of the province stands at 2 million which makes the total number of registered voters count as only 10% of the Faryab demographic. This comes while in the last elections held in 2014 for the president, 5,00,000 voters had registered.

Given the recent situation in Faryab and the deteriorating security situation, many parts of the province have been deprived of the registration process.

“The reason for the low participation of people in the registration process in Faryab can be attributed to the lack of security which the security forces have failed to provide to the people” said Amanullah Faryabi, head of the Faryab Provincial Election Commission. The security forces were able to cover 80 percent of the voter registration centers in Faryab, and the remaining centers were blocked since the beginning of the process. “

“Faryab is the province with one of the lowest population participation rate this year, considering the population of Faryab Province and the people’s participation in the previous rounds,”  Naqibullah Fayeq, governor of Faryab commented. This may be due to two reasons: one is that the process was not well-informed, and people are not well aware of the election registration, and the other is the lack of security.  Faryab is a kind of province most of whose areas are controlled by Taliban, making them out of the government’s reach. “

The share of parliamentary seats from Faryab province is 9, of whom three must be women

Behruz Roozbeh, the deputy director of Faryab Civil Society Organizations Network, also told Khabarnama: “The participation of people in voter registration in Maymana was considerable. In this area, the worrying challenge that exist is security, since so many areas are under the control of the Taliban. The biggest concern is that they will not be able to open the polling stations in all areas and that the election may be subject to fraudulent practices. “

People Wary of Election Day Due to Abysmal Security

In the recent past, Faryab has had a serious security situation, and the Taliban have advanced to the gates of the cities. During this time, people have witnessed the fall of some particular areas of Faryab every other day. Faryab security officials say that they have succeeded in waging war from inner parts to the outside of the city and that they have been clearing residential areas from insurgents.

But, according to Behruz Roozbeh, deputy director of the Faryab Civil Society Organization Network, several districts such as Belcheragh, are fully controlled by the Taliban and lie outside the control of the government.

Mr Roozbeh has said that concerns about security threats in the province poses as one of the biggest challenges in Faryab ahead of the elections, because the majority of the province is in the hands of the Taliban and there are relatively fewer areas under the control of the security forces.

“There have been a lot of meetings to take serious measures, but at district level only the district center is in the hands of the security forces, and these forces do not have access to the remote villages.  Most of the security measures are enforced in the Maymana city,” he added.

In response to this, the governor of Faryab told Khabarnama: “We admit that only the districts’ centers are under our control.”

According to an inquiry by Khabarnama, the majority of the population in the province is in Maimana city, in which people have participated in registration process. Four districts of Andkhuy too have the largest population, and have seen many people getting registered. But most of the areas in the other districts such as Almar, Qaisar and Garziwan are dominated by Taliban insurgents;  other district such as Belcheragh and Ghormach have also fallen. In these parts of Faryab province, no polling centers have been opened and the registration process has not been carried out.

Haji Mohammad Hashim, Faryab MP

“In ShirinTagab, Dawlatabad and Khwaja Sabzpush districts, the registration process has not started and no one has been registered in the villages of these districts,” said Haji Mohammad Hashim, Faryab MP.

But the head of the Faryab Election Commission has told Khabarnama that only in Lulash district have the registration centers been closed, and that in the rest of the district, most of the  people have participated in the registration process.

However, contrary to what the head of provincial office of the election commission in Faryab has claimed, 238 polling centers have been established in Faryab and more than 50 percent are in the hands of the security forces.

At the same time, Naqibulah Fayeq talked about launch of a new clean-up operation: “Four days later, cleanup operations in more areas will be carried out in the province, with which we hope to take more centers under our control,” he said.

Security or Fraud

In addition to the security problems in Faryab, one of the concerns of the authorities in the province is the possibility of fraud and the lack of central government control over the registration process.

“There was no actual presence of the central government in the province which might have led to suspicious and fraudulent practices by some powerful people when Tazkeras were being distributed and stickers were being tagged,” Faryab Governor said.

But he also added: “We have tried to resolve the problems of this province and now there seems to be no issue in the electoral program because it is now managed in a manner that we that can make the whole process transparent..Because  there is no parallel government in this province, and none of theprovincial authorities would intervene in the election, the election commission would maintain its independence. “

In addition to the security problems in Faryab, one of the concerns of the authorities in the province is the possibility of fraud and the lack of central government control over the registration process

Behruz Roozbeh, however, claims to the contrary: “In the process of distributing the Tazkara, many Tazkera forms were relocated by powerful people and distributed illegally, and there were also fictitious people who were tagged with a sticker on their Tazkeras.”

“There are many challenges in Faryab; voters’ registration, distribution of duplicate Tazkeras, tagging stickers on fake Tazkeras are some of the  problems that stare at the upcoming election beside security threats” Mohammad Arif Molayi, a member of Faryab provincial council, said.

Nonetheless, a member of the House of Representatives from Faryab , Muhammad Hashim, believes that the issues of security and transparency are the biggest matters that need to be tackled in the upcoming election.  He hopes that the biometric system will allow some transparency in these elections.

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