By: Hakim Jan Ahamdzai
The Independent Elections Commission timeline holds the presidential elections on 28, September, 2019. However, what is the likelihood the successful conduct of the presidential elections? The answer is: greater than many might assume. The successful performance of the elections – one with greater turn out, transparency, and women participation – is highly dependent on the peace negotiations between the Taliban, the U.S. government, and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Despite the Taliban’s potential continuation of threats and political violence during the elections, it is more likely that Afghan citizens will vote. Our discussion here is not concerned with an evaluation of the economic, social, and political dimensions essential for a stable democracy in Afghanistan. One is aware of the challenges and emerging issues that hinder sociopolitical and socioeconomic stability in Afghanistan.
An empirical analysis of the relationship between the negotiations and likelihood of presidential elections can become enigmatic because there unique variables that influence the outcomes. Political scientists could employ various research methods to approach the above mentioned question. They could do surveys, utilize statistical models, or examine case studies to draw separate or overlapping falsifiable conclusions. The important point is that any rational investigation would include the decomposition of variables to determine the most influential independent one. Alternatively, a structured analysis is quite useful in this context, provided that an increase in variables geometrically expands complexity and uncertainty.
There are several reasonable hypotheses subject to test. Security has a positive (or negative) linear relationship with greater vote turn out. Voters’ choices influence the elections outcomes. Corruption is more likely to negatively (or positively) impact elections results. Electoral campaigns influence candidates’ chances of win (or loss). Weather conditions can hinder voters from casting their votes. The list goes on. How about the impact of the peace negotiations?
The peace negotiations between the U.S. government, the Taliban, and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan can impact the successful conduct of elections in several ways. First, assuming that the parties to the negotiations agree to a total ceasefire on the election day(s), Afghan citizens are more likely to cast their votes at poll stations, all else considered. But the flip side of this kind of reasoning leads to the possibility of greater popular confidence in democracy on the grounds that political violence can further dissipate the limited popular support for the Taliban. Provided that the Taliban opposes elections – they are not democratic –, voters are more likely to become disaffected towards those who threaten to disrupt elections. Secondly, assuming that political violence continues, Afghan citizens in violence affected areas are less likely to risk their well being; hence, a lower turn out. For example, it was the case that the Taliban previously attacked poll stations. Will the Taliban threaten and use force against voters again in the elections? It depends on how the negotiations unfold. The following alternative scenarios are expected.
First, the Taliban is more likely to continue political violence. This is indicated by their refusal to a cease fire during the recent Eid Holidays and to negotiate with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. In response, the Afghan government has insisted on negotiations and peaceful relations with the Pakistani state. Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani has seemingly gained greater positive popularity among the attentive publics within and outside Afghanistan for his tireless efforts for peace talks, regional economic engagements, youth empowerment, and anti-corruption programs implementations. These indicators can increase the degrees of his success for a second term, while diminish social base for the Taliban and their ideological sympathizers. Of course, all presidential candidates will compete to win the elections, but the incumbent president has a greater wining chance. Additionally, the Afghan National Defense Forces have made significant gains in the spring offensive (2019) through direct battles, air strikes, and prisons breaks. NATO’s support through the Resolute Support Mission (RS) for the Afghan National Defense Forces in the forms of train, advise, and assist has proven useful. Consequently, rise in political violence decreases turn out, but increases popular desire for elections as the only best alternative forward; hence, greater chance of successful conduct of the elections.
Secondly, the Taliban is less likely to vote in the elections and significantly increase its attacks on poll stations. This kind of relationship mildly diminishes popular discontent with the Taliban and moderately increases turn out, all else considered. This greater likelihood of this scenario is dependent on the nature and efficiency of successful negotiations prior to the elections. And thirdly, the Afghan government is least likely to suspend the elections. There are eighteen registered candidate, who would certainly oppose elections postponement. This scenario would reveal an unprecedented rise in political violence, zero votes, and halted negotiations.
Ultimately, The IEC is determined to hold the presidential elections as scheduled. The Afghan government, the Taliban, and the U.S. government are more likely to continue the peace negations; however, the impact of political violence during the elections is less likely to prevent the successful conduct of the elections, all else considered. The above mentioned three scenarios provide useful initial insights about the relationship between the potential outcomes of the negotiations and the elections. While a low turnout is expected only if political violence continues, Afghans are more likely to vote and elect their next president. This is a manifestation of the prevailing nature of democracy. There is more work to be done for a stable and democratic Afghanistan, indeed.
Hakim Jan Ahamdzai is a Fulbright scholar (BA Political Science & MA in Security Policies), who writes and publishes on security and development topics.