Akifi said the commission has considered the country’s law and its national interests in preparing the draft document and that the national unity is and has been a priority for them in their work.
According to him, they prepared their report after interviewing people from different sectors of society in seven provinces – which in turn represents different zones of the country – and that they met with Jihadi leaders, civil society members, rights activists, members of Ulema Councils, university lecturers as well as representatives of international organizations including the United Nations.
He said that at least 2,000 Afghans were interviewed and their recommendations were prepared in a 100-page book.
He added that most of the recommendations of the ERC members were similar.
The draft document recommendations include the following key points:
- Electoral system: Considering the fact that the current electoral system in Afghanistan – the Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV) – is not addressing all the requirements of the country. This system has to be changed. Votes are wasted in the current system as MPs receive at least 83 percent of votes. The current electoral system should be changed into a parallel system that according which one third of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House) seats are allocated to political parties – based on the law. Political parties that gain at least three percent of the vote will be included in the electoral process. In such an electoral system, the Wolesi Jirga’s seats – at 250 – would include 10 seats for Kochis, one for minority Sikhs, one third of the seats for political parties and the remaining seats – including 65 for women – would be allocated to independent candidates.
- Electoral centers: For independent parliamentary candidates, electoral sites should be established within provinces according to the population.
- Voters and voting lists: The voters list should be prepared according to identity cards. Considering the fact that a large percentage of the population does not have ID cards, the IEC should take special measures to register them on a voters list for the parliamentary elections. The government should launch the national electronic identity card (e-NIC) campaign as soon as possible. The current voter cards should be deemed invalid.
- Education level for Wolesi Jirga membership: The education level for parliamentary candidates should be decreased to 14th grade graduates.
- Polling centers: The selection of polling centers and polling sites should be reviewed in a bid to increase ease of access for people.
- Electoral commission’s appointment process: The IEC should appoint seven members – three of them for five years and four of them for three years. The commission members should be at least university graduates, have a minimum of five year’s work experience in government offices and they should be no less than 35 years of age.
- Mechanism of addressing electoral complaints: The central electoral complaint commission should have five members – two of whom for five years and the other three for three years. They should have a bachelor degree in law, five years of experience in governmental offices and should not be less than 35 years of age. The commission should have provincial centers as well.
- The electoral commissions should be accountable to the electoral complaint committee.
- Women’s role should be increased in provincial councils: They should have a 25 percent representation role in the councils.
- A seat for Sikhs should be allocated.
- Excessive expenditure in the electoral process needs to be curbed.
According to Akifi, the commission as well as all Afghans want a transparent election, which is not possible without a proper voters’ list. “If there is a population of 30 million in Afghanistan, then there should be [theoretically] 13 million voters; however, at least 20 million voter cards have been distributed – which should all be deemed invalid,” he added.
He suggested that e-NIC should be rolled out as soon as possible so as to gather actual data for a voters list.
About the appointment process in electoral commissions, he said members of the commission should select impartial figures. He suggested that the election commission should have seven members and the electoral complaints commission should have five members including two foreigners.
Regarding the issue of addressing electoral complaints, Akifi recommended that a committee should be held to address electoral complaints and two United Nations (UN) representatives should be appointed as members. “There should be local commissions in provinces. The electoral complaints committee should address the complaints which are registered against electoral commissions, and low level complaints should be addressed by local committees,” he added.
On the subject of education, he said the education level for parliamentary candidates should be decreased to 14th degree graduates and that role of women should be increased in provincial councils.
To reduce electoral expenses, he recommended that the government should appoint government officials and university lecturers as temporary employees of the commission before and after the electoral process. “This will help the commission to reduce its expenses and prevent rigging in polls because those working in the government will not try to have a hand in electoral fraud,” he said.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, who was also present at the meeting, applauded the ERC for the work already done and welcomed the recommendations submitted.
He said it was important to note that the process of the commission was entirely Afghan-owned and Afghan-led and that UNAMA’s involvement was purely in an advisory capacity.
He went on to say this latest development was an important step in strengthening the democratic process in Afghanistan.
It also “strengthens the public’s trust in the election process in Afghanistan,” he said.
Abdullah meanwhile thanked the ERC for their hard work in the past month in preparing the documentation. He said that the process of bringing reforms to the electoral system is one of the main promises made by the National Unity Government (NUG).
“Your work will be praised. It will be applauded more when it results in maintaining social justice, political stability and creating hope for a better future among Afghans,” he said.
He vowed that all the recommendations including the suggestion of invalidating voter cards, the establishment of voter centers, independence of commissions, appointment processes, and increasing capacity of electoral employees will be assessed seriously.
He added that the e-NIC rollout will also kick off soon and all the decisions in this regard will be made by the Council of Ministers and in accordance with the country’s law.
“We need your [ERC’s] cooperation in the next steps as well. We will take basic steps in this regard, and will try to regain people’s trust on the electoral process,” Abdullah told the session.
He said the election process will be Afghan-owned and Afghan-led, but the government will need the international community’s help in this regard.