Low turnout poll ‘elects’ new reactionary parliament
The much delayed parliamentary elections in Afghanistan were finally held on 18 September, but the official results will only become available by the end of next week. Though provisional results have been announced, the delay has fuelled doubts about the fairness of the polls and prompted defeated candidates to stage almost daily protests in the capital, Kabul, and elsewhere in the country. The right has won most of the seats in 249-member National Assembly.
The elections were held on non-party basis, but different parties, groups and militias supported the different candidates. The drug barons invested heavily to influence candidates. The elections for 34 provincial councils were also held on the same date.
Low turn out
The turn out was low compared to last year’s presidential elections, in which Hamid Karzai was the winner. On that occasion, the turn out was officially almost 70%, but the real turn out was somewhere over 50%. But, a year later, the official turn out is 53 % for the parliament elections, as only 6.8 million out of the 12.5 million registered voters voted. According to the so-called ‘independent observers’, the real turn out was around 38%.
There were more than 6,000 candidates contesting 249 seats. Most political commentators were expecting a much higher turn out in these elections due to the higher number of candidates. But the main reasons for the low turn out is the huge dissatisfaction with performance of President Karzai and his cabinet, the candidature of many warlords and drug lords to stand in the elections (despite allegations of human rights abuses and corruption against them) and the lack of confidence of the electorate in the ability of the new parliament to bring positive changes to the lives of the poor working masses. Those apposed to the Karzai government and to the presence of US-led foreign forces in Afghanistan were kept out of the electoral process. Many made a conscious choice not to vote. Generally, the majority of people have lost any hopes with the present political system. The majority of people know that Hamid Karzai is just a puppet in the hands of US imperialism. Widespread disillusionment with the Karzai government explains the turnout of just 27% in the capital city, Kabul.
Fraud and vote rigging
The election organisers, comprising Afghan and UN officials, promised to provide final results by 22 October, but yet another delay occurred when many candidates alleged fraud and demanded re-polling or a recount. The polls organisers, working under the Joint Electoral Management Board (JEMB), argued that investigations into the allegations slowed the count and delayed plans to announce certified results.
Fifty employees charged with organising the “landmark” elections were fired for alleged fraud in different parts of the country. Moreover, 680 ballot boxes, which made up 3% of the vote, were taken out of the counting process because of suspicions they were rigged. These episodes created widespread doubts about the transparency of the elections. In many areas, people complained they were forcefully brought to the polling stations to cast their votes in favor of warlords. Despite the protests by the poll losers, elections managers and the Afghan government dismissed holding fresh elections, given the enormity of the task and the big delay it would cause in getting results, they argued. It is, therefore, obvious that defeated contestants and their supporters will never accept the polls as fair and transparent and will continue to raise the issue at every available forum. There are no election tribunals in Afghanistan and no courts to challenge the election results. So the only option the losing candidates feel they have is to hold street demonstrations, which they are doing, every day.
The parliamentary polls were non-party but political parties and alliances campaigned for candidates and devised strategies to win seats, both in the 249-members Wolesi Jirga (House of the People or National Assembly) and 34 provincial councils (one in each province).
President Hamid Karzai campaigned for his elder and younger brothers. His elder brother, Abdul Qayyum Karzai, who on behalf of the Karzai family owned and ran Afghan restaurants in the US, won a seat in the National Assembly in his native Kandahar province, by securing the highest number of votes (14,243) of all the candidates. The President’s younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, captured a seat in Kandahar’s provincial council and garnered 16,854 votes to beat all the other 15 winning candidates. Many other Karzai supporters also won seats and there is speculation they will form a group in the parliament in support of the President.
Opposition winners, such as, Muhammad Younus Qanuni, Haji Muhammad Mohqiq, Faiz-ullah-Zaki, who is loyal to Uzbek warlord, Abdul Rashid Dostum, and the Ismaili spiritual figure, Syed Mansoor Naderi, from Baghlan Province, and others, could also formed a alliance or a block, to challenge President Karzai in the parliament.
Ethnic and regional politics will, very likely, play a role in the formation of the parliamentary blocks, with ethnic Pashtuns siding with the President and most non-Pashtuns apposing him.
Going by the provisional results of those declared elected, the new parliament will be a mix of former warlords, religious figures, ex-communists, nationalists, liberals, ex-jihadi leaders, liberals and Taliban-linked figures. Some people accused of drug-trafficking and human rights abuses have also made it to the parliament, and so have ‘non-political’ and rich ‘personalities’. Full-time politicians, fighters, businessmen, academics, mullahs, doctors, lawyers and journalists won seats. The majority of the winners have a strong conservative background. There is an abundance of mullahs and others religious leaders and teachers.
Former Mujahideen leaders winning seats include Ustad Mohaqiq, Younus Qanuni, Professor Burhan-un-din Rabbani, who led the list of winners in his native Badakhshan (with 24,422 votes), Professor Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf, who polled an unimpressive 9,806 votes from Kabul province, Pir Syed Ishaq Galilani from Paktika, Haji Hazart Ali from Nangarhar, Ustad Muhammad Akbari from Bamiyan, Fazalullah Mojadeddi from Logar, Haji Mosa Hotak from Wardak, Haji Fareed from Kapisa, Haji Muhammad Umer from Kunduz, and Haji Badshah Khan Zadran from Paktia. Many others who emerged winners were second or third-ranked Mujahideen leaders and commanders.
Six former Taliban figures contested the elections and two scored victories. One of the winners was Mullah Abdul Salam Rockti (the notorious kidnapper and criminal), who polled just 3,027 vote but still emerged the winner in the Taliban strong hold of Zabul province, where the turnout was a low 21%. The other Taliban-linked winner was Maulvi Muhammad Islam Muhammadi, who was Governor of Bamiyan during Taliban rule, and was able to win a seat in his native Samangan province, with 9,477 votes.
The losers included former Taliban foreign minister, Wakil Ahmed Mutawwail, who needs government protection in Kabul after his release from US custody. He was a reluctant candidate and was unable to campaign in Kandahar because of fear of attack from the Taliban. Maulvi Qalamuddin, who earned notoriety as head of the Taliban religious police, also contested Logar Province and lost badly. Mullah Muhammad Khaksar, a Deputy Minister who defected just before the US invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, tasted defeat in Kandahar. Some other less well-known Taliban commanders also lost elections in Pashtun provinces.
Some former Stalinists (‘communists’) did well in the polls and won seats. Among them is Noor-ul-haq Olumi, who is now head of a ‘reformed progressive party’, who polled 13,035 votes in Kandahar and stands second in the list of successful candidates, only behind President Karazai’s brother, Qayyum Karzai. Another prominent winner is Syed Muhammad Gulabzoi, a former interior minister, who beat all other constants in Khost province, by polling 15,423 votes. Babrak Shinwari, who also served as a deputy minister during the ‘communist’ years, was among the 14 winners for the National Assembly, from Nangharhar province (getting 6,569 votes).
However, many former Afghan communist leaders failed to get enough votes to be elected to the National Assembly. Most of the ex-communists won in Pashtun-dominated areas. All those former Stalinist leaders that won seats stood on reformist programme and a few of them are now Pashtun nationalists.
There is a big political vacuum in Afghanistan. Afghan working people clearly need a party that fights for their rights. Small left groups do exist in Afghanistan, but they have no clear ideas, strategy, programme or tactics. The formation of a mass party of working people and the rural poor is a basic task for the left in Afghanistan.
Sixty eight female candidates were elected on seats reserved for women. But female representation in the Afghan parliament does not mean it will alter or improve the terrible conditions for women. Women still face domestic violence, torture, so-called ‘honour killings’, forced marriages and gender bias in male-dominated Afghan society. Most of these elected female members of National Assembly belong to rich and middle class families. There is no representation for working class women. The judiciary is still dominated by the conservative Mullahs, so it is not easy to pass any legislation to repeal anti-women laws and ‘traditions’.
These elections, like the presidential elections, will not solve any basic problems faced by the Afghan people. Desperate poverty, unemployment, hunger, ethnic and national tensions, increased violence, continued imperialist occupation, and other problems, worsened over the last 4 years. Afghanistan is still as fractured and divided as it was before the US-led invasion, in October 2001. All the talk of prosperity, peace and a better life has come to nothing. There will be no stability, peace, prosperity, or genuine democracy, as long as imperialist occupation continues. Capitalism cannot solve any fundamental problems faced by the Afghan masses. Capitalism means wars, mass destruction, lies and exploitation. Afghanistan is a clear example of how capitalism can destroy the lives of millions of people for the interest of the rich few and imperialism.