All posts by Timothy Gantner

First Impressions of the Afghan Elections: Field Reports and Analysis

I went to the U.S Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. to learn about the elections that were just held in Afghanistan. First off it was a brand new facility and very very nice. The lecture was held in a lecture like classroom. I believe C-SPAN was covering the event. There was a group of four men on stage in a panel and they were on Skype with a panel that were located in Kabul, Afghanistan. I thought this was totally awesome. Although there were issues with video quality and sound, I heard enough to write this summary. The elections were important because it can mark the first democratic transfer of power in the country’s history. Basically, its a real test for Afghanistan’s governmental institutions. The three front-runners for election are: Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister… Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister, and Zalmai Rassoul, a former foreign minister. The panels discussed two possible scenarios and how a run-off would be very possible. They suggested it could still be awhile before an election winner is announced.

The most intriguing part for me is how they talked about the Taliban involvement. The Taliban have stated that elections are illegitimate and that they will consider everyone who participates to be a legitimate target. They unleashed a wave of violence against election-related and other targets, including intimidation of people at the polls. The panel discussed how in the end though, the Taliban came out as losers and Afghanistan and security forces came out as winners due to the turn of the elections. I heard that 60% of Afghanistan is 25 or younger and it was a huge turnout for the younger generation.

The key phrase that stood out to me was a little anecdote. One of the members on stage grew up in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union. He said when he was little, they would pretend to fight, shoot guns. He then went on to say that when he visited last and the recent photos that have went viral, kids now put a red dot on their finger while playing and pretending to vote. This is a sign that is really encouraging for the future of Afghanistan.