Political Landscape

Afghanistan Election Conundrum (10): Failure to hold the first ever district council elections?


IEC employees registering a Kabul resident at a voter registration centre for the upcoming parliamentary and district elections. According to an IEC report, more than nine million people have registered to vote. However, not enough have registered as district council candidates, leading the IEC to propose a postponement. Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/ AFP, April 2018

IEC employees registering a Kabul resident at a voter registration centre for the upcoming parliamentary and district elections. According to an IEC report, more than nine million people have registered to vote. However, not enough have registered as district council candidates, leading the IEC to propose a postponement. Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/ AFP, April 2018

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has proposed a delay in the district council elections, citing a lack of candidates. According to a report from the body, only a tenth of the country’s districts have enough male and female candidates to compete. The IEC listed several reasons as to why so few people wanted to stand: insecurity, lack of a legal framework, a requirement on educational qualifications that was too stringent, lack of clarity on salaries and benefits for councillors and, in rural areas, an unfavourable ‘cultural context’.  In this, the latest dispatch in his series on the preparations for Afghanistan’s elections, AAN’s Ali Yawar Adili assesses these reasons and points also to a hostility towards district council elections from within the state from the outset.

This is part ten of a series of dispatches looking at the preparations for the parliamentary elections. Part one dealt with political challenges; part two with an initial set of technical problems, including the date, budget and use of biometric technology; part three  with electoral constituencies; part four with controversies surrounding the appointment of a new IEC member after its former chief was sacked by President Ghani; part five with a demand by political parties to change the electoral system; part six with the date of the polls and with voter registration; part seven with a deficient polling centre assessment; part eight with controversies over voter registration, and; part nine with controversies over holding elections in Ghazni province.

Setting up district councils should be an important endeavour. They have, potentially, a significant political role to play. In establishing them two important institutions would be completed: according to the constitution, one third (34) of the 102 members of the Meshrano Jirga should be elected by district councils and district councillors should make up more than half of the members of any Constitutional Loya Jirga (the only body which can change the Afghan constitution). District councils could also provide accountability at the local level by checking local administration and district governors (see also this USIP article here). They could contribute to efforts to secure peace with the Taleban and other insurgent groups by providing a platform for local communities to feel included, represented and engaged in local government.

However, despite being mandated by the 2004 constitution, elections for district councils have never been held. This time again, efforts to hold them are failing. On 29 July 2018, the IEC proposed that they should be postponed (they are due to be held on 20 October, together with the parliamentary elections). The IEC argued that only 40 out of Afghanistan’s 387 districts had an adequate number of candidates to compete. (See media reporting here, which quotes the IEC letter On 31 July, the head of the IEC’s field operations department, Zmarai Qalamyar, said that out of three elements necessary to an election – “voters, candidates, and competition” – one was missing; in other words, the number of candidates standing was inadequate. He also said that re-opening a fresh candidate nomination was not feasible at this stage as it would delay the Wolesi Jirga elections.

This is the second proposal by the IEC regarding a postponement of a 2018 election. It had earlier recommended delaying all elections in Ghazni province, arguing that due to the “serious security situation and other problems” in the province, fair and inclusive representation from the entire province could not be ensured (media report here).

Both proposals were made to a committee that has been set up, as stipulated in article 104 of the electoral law which says that if “security situations, natural disasters, and other similar conditions make impossible the principle of general and fair representation,” elections should be postponed for a period of four months, based on a proposal by the IEC and with the approval of the committee. (1) The committee, according to the article, comprises the head and members of the National Security Council, the speakers of two houses of the parliament, the chief justice and the chairperson of the Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitutions. Qalamyar said the committee has not decided on the IEC proposal yet.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) and Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) provided a list of 387 districts to the IEC for planning the district council elections. The statistics that AAN received on 26 July 2018 show the following problems:

  • No male or female candidates in 42 districts
  • No female candidate in 120 districts
  • The number of candidates in 166 out of the 206 districts that have female candidates is equal or less than the number of the seats allocated to women in those districts
  • The number of male candidates in 39 out of the 326 districts that have male candidates is equal or less than the number of the seats allocated to those districts (excluding the women’s quota of 25 per cent seats)
  • Only 40 districts have an adequate number of male and female candidates

On 30 July, Kabul daily Etilaat Roz also reported similar statistics that it claimed had been prepared by the legal department of the IEC. AAN’s conversations with election specialists privy to the IEC’s internal discussions (as well as Etilaat Roz report quoted above) show that IEC officials have concluded that the reasons for the low number of candidates include: the stringent education requirements, insecurity, the need to resign from civil service and government positions before standing, a lack of clarity on the councillors’ authorities and responsibilities – a problem that also had applied to the provincial councils (AAN analysis here) –, and a lack of clarity on salaries and benefits that councillors will enjoy. However, as I argue below, more overarching factors were at play; the reasons why so few Afghans wanted to stand should be seen as secondary factors in causing a delay – or, in the end, abandonment of the district council elections. There has been hostility by sections of the National Unity Government to holding them at all. That has allowed a basic lack of clarity to linger over various issues which needed to be certain before elections could take place. Among these were the number of districts in the country, that has only recently been clarified between the Central Statistics Office and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (each had previously used different figures) and their boundaries (this issue will be looked at in a separate dispatch).

Earlier pushback against district council elections

The drive towards holding district elections for the first time came from the 2014 National Unity Government agreement. The Abdullah camp wanted to change the constitution and this was agreed to by the Ghani camp. Changing the constitution needs a Constitutional Loya Jirga whose members must include the elected heads of district councils. However, since 2014, some elements of the government have displayed a reluctance to hold these elections. Last year, on 21 August 2017, Vice-President Sarwar Danesh, who was speaking at an event organised jointly by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) and United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on reviewing the constitution, openly said that there was no need for district council elections (or village council or municipal council elections). He argued that four elected institutions (the presidency, Wolesi Jirga, mayoral and provincial councils) were enough. He also said that Afghanistan did not have the money to hold all these elections, nor did it have the expertise to manage the various elected bodies and nor was there any need for them in terms of democracy and popular will.

Vice-President Danesh’s argument for removing district council elections from the constitution ran counter to what the Special Electoral Reform Commission (SERC) – the commission that was tasked in 2015 by the government to come up with proposals for electoral reform – had, earlier in late 2015, recommended when it discussed the issue of multiple elections in Afghanistan (see AAN analysis here). The SERC’s recommendations were that the constitution be amended in a way to provide for the indirect election of provincial council members from among the district and municipal councils. It also said that the Constitutional Loya Jirga should reconsider having village council elections. (2) The SERC’s recommendation was based on two things: the desire to reduce the number of elections to make them affordable, and to localise representation. The argument was that district councils would be closer to the local population than the provincial councils and they could just as well be elected indirectly. This system would work in a similar way to the Afghan Senate where one third of the members are elected by provincial councils and one third should be elected by district councils.

Vice-President Danesh’s remarks were noticed with concern by some parties. For instance, on 16 September 2017, Abdul Sabur Khedmat, an MP from Farah province, said: “The second vice president says that we cannot hold the district council elections, but the commission says that we will hold parliamentary anddistrict council elections.” (emphasis added) (see here.)

AAN’s research at the time also showed that officials at the IDLG were arguing against holding district council elections in 2018. These officials pointed to a number of reasons why a delay was desirable: the cost of the elections and the salaries to the elected councillors, and the lack of institutional structures within the IDLG to administer and oversee almost 400 district councils (more on the number of districts below). AAN’s research also showed that the IDLG had suggested to President Ashraf Ghani that district council elections be held together with the next presidential and provincial council elections in 2019. Officials from both the IDLG and the Palace, the author found out, only wanted to hold district council elections at all so as to complete the constitutional requirements to hold a Constitutional Loya Jirga which could then remove district councils altogether. One IDLG official in conversation with AAN argued that district councils could provide a huge network of clients for national powerbrokers and could therefore play a destabilising role in politics.

Remarks aimed at disincentivising potential candidates also came from the IDLG halfway through the period for candidate nomination when, on 4 June, the head of its department for coordination of local councils, Sayyed Ahmad Khamush, told Etilaat Roz that the IDLG did not have the financial ability to pay salaries and benefits to the district council members in the same way it paid MPs and provincial council members. He said that the IDLG intended to build on the experience of developing community development councils (CDCs), which worked voluntarily with the National Solidarity Programme in the past and now with the Citizen’s Charter programme. A week later, on 11 June, he told Tolonews (see here) that there were around 2,800 district council members and the government would need to hire over 800 civil servants to carry out their administrative work. Khamush estimated that around 500 million Afs (around 6.9 million USD) would be needed per annum to pay the district councillors’ salaries and benefits and this, he said, was beyond the government’s financial capability.

These remarks came during the candidate nomination period (for both district councils and Wolesi Jirga elections, this started on 26 May and ended on 12 June.) The IEC extended the period for nominations for district councils for two more days, until 14 June, after it realised that not enough people, especially women, had chosen to stand. AAN’s conversations with different national and international election experts suggest these remarks did dampen potential candidates’ interest and that the possibility that they were deliberately made cannot be ruled out. This suspicion was also flagged by Mohiuddin Mahdi, an MP from Baghlan affiliated with Jamiat-e Islami, who wrote on 27 July in a Facebook post that “the most important reason for women and men’s disinterest in nomination was the government’s untimely – but meaningful – announcement of the district councillors not having material benefits.” AAN has also heard anecdotes indicating that, in certain provinces, candidates had resigned from their government jobs to run in district council elections, but rushed to withdraw their resignations after hearing the remarks from the IDLG.

It seems that, although the IEC did incorporate district council elections into election planning from the very beginning when it announced the election date, there has been no sign of political will or genuine support from the government for holding them, although the president officially stuck to the line that both elections should be held as planned (see for example on his website here).

Some attempts to re-incentivise potential candidates by discussing their salaries and benefits came far too late, after the nomination period was already over. For instance, on 18 June, some MPs signed a proposal and submitted it to administrative board of the Wolesi Jirga to revise the law on the salaries of government officials to include salaries for district council members. Baghlan MP Mehdi, who was part of this effort (a copy of the proposal posted on his Facebook page, told the media that:

District councils are a fundamental foundation stone of democracy as well as a primary component of a Constitutional Loya Jirga. Therefore, I suggested that specific benefits be envisioned for their members. Inter alia, if they are [a government] employee or a teacher, they should be given additional benefits in addition to them maintaining their job and salary, while those who are newcomers and do not have a working background, should be provided with fixed salaries and benefits.

Similarly, it was only on 25 July that, that the issue was clarified at the highest level of government: the High Council of Rule of Law chaired by President Ghani discussed the district council law and salaries and decided that the law be finalised soon and “salaries be set for members of district councils.”

It might also be the case that this late effort on the part of the government was intended to avoid responsibility for the unravelling of the district council elections.

What is the constitutional status of district councils?

A more fundamental antipathy to having elected district councils could be because they are a prerequisite for changing the constitution. They are needed to complete two important institutions: a Constitutional Loya Jirga and the upper house of the parliament. Not having elected district councils could always, therefore, be used as an excuse to reject any demand for convening such a Loya Jirga. The constitution is very clear about this. Article 140 of the 2004 constitution (3) establishes district councils elected by local residents “for 3 years through free, general, secret, as well as direct elections.” A separate law to regulate the authorities and responsibilities of the councils has to be approved by parliament and the president. The IDLG has been reportedly holding consultative meetings in different regions of the country on what roles should be codified for district councils. (media report here) However, as yet – less than three months before the planned elections – nothing has been authorised.

It is article 110 (4) of the constitution that discusses district councillors’ part in any Loya Jirga which, according to the article, “is the highest manifestation of the will of the people of Afghanistan.” A Loya Jirga consists, the article says, of: 1) members of the National Assembly; 2) heads of the provincial councils; and 3) heads of the district councils. The Loya Jirga has crucial functions, as prescribed in article 111 of the constitution: to decide on issues related to the independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity and supreme national interests; amend provisions of this constitution and; impeach the president in accordance with the provisions of article 69 of the constitution. None of these three functions can be performed without a Loya Jirga and it cannot be constitutionally convened without having district council elections.

This was the reason why the National Unity Government in its September 2014 political agreement (see here) committed itself to holding district council elections “as early as possible on the basis of a law in order to create a quorum for the Loya Jirga in accordance with Section 2 of Article 110 of the Constitution.” The aim of convening a Loya Jirga was to amend the constitution and consider “the proposal to create the post of executive prime minister.” On 27 July, MP Mahdi, after it was revealed that the IEC was considering proposing a delay in district council elections, called this “the antidemocratic decision” of the government taking “pre-emptive action” against convening a Loya Jirga “to amend and reform the constitution.” He claimed the Loya Jirga was “a demand that recently parties and civil society organisations have strongly insisted on and emphasised.”

Moreover, according to article 84 of the constitution, one third of Meshrano Jirga members should also come from the district councils: “From amongst district councils of each province, one individual [is] elected by the respective councils for a three-year term for Meshrano Jirga.” (5) However, both the previous and current governments have filled this set of Meshrano Jirga seats with provincial councillors. The indirectly-elected two-thirds of senators should outnumber the one-third appointed by the president and could, therefore, provide a stronger check on him (or her), particularly given that the senators elected through the district councils are, in principle, supposed to strongly represent the interests of the rural population.

Given the 387 districts in Afghanistan now agreed upon, the district councils would actually comprise a majority of Constitutional Loya Jirga members. Against the 387 heads of district councils would be 386 others – 250 MPs, 102 Senators and the 34 heads of the provincial councils. Since the district councils would also elect 34 members of Meshrano Jirga, the total number of Constitutional Loya Jirga members coming directly or indirectly from the district councils would be 421, as opposed to 352 others. The district councils’ share of a Loya Jirga membership could further increase as more districts than 387 might be created in the future (more on the number of districts below and in an upcoming dispatch).

Legal requirements and constraints

The low number of candidates for district councils was also caused by too strict criteria for nomination. The 2016 electoral law stipulates what some election experts consider as too high requirements for potential candidates for district (as well as provincial and village) councils which are discussed in this section. This could indicate how random and flawed the – still largely incomplete – electoral reform was.

For instance, while there is no education criterion for Wolesi Jirga candidates who are supposed to enact legislation in a broad range of fields and approve fundamental lines of the country’s foreign policy as well as other international treaties (which should require education), the electoral law sets out completed 12thgrade education (apart from being at least 25 years old) for prospective candidates of the three above-mentioned councils. (6) AAN’s conversation with election specialists and potential candidates as well as the IEC report showed that the legal requirements for the district council candidates have actually harmed candidate nomination. Article 40 of the electoral law sets the following requirements for people to stand in district – and provincial – councils:

A further dampening of enthusiasm may have been article 44 of the electoral law (7) which bans seven categories of people from running, including civil servants. They have to resign before standing for any elected position. Given the lack of clarity on salaries and benefits (and of the chance of being elected), this stipulation may have put off teachers and other civil servants from standing as district councillors.

Districts outside the government control

According to the IEC’s report, insecurity was one of the main reasons for not enough people standing for the district council elections. The government has never cited insecurity as an argument against district council elections. However, as three security assessments showed, it is a real problem. Even if the IEC were to rescind its proposal to delay the district council elections, holding an inclusive ballot looks near impossible.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has been conducting an assessment of Afghanistan’sdistricts since it began receiving ‘control-of-district’ data from the United States military and Resolute Support in November 2015. According to its latest quarterly report published on 30 July 2018, out of the country’s 407 districts, which SIGAR uses as the unit of assessment, as of 15 May 2018, 74 districts were under Afghan government control and 155 others under government influence, a total of 229 districts (56.3%). It said 11 districts were under insurgent control and 45 others under insurgent influence, a total of 56 districts (13.8%). The remaining 122 districts (30%) were contested, meaning they were controlled neither by the government nor the insurgency. In sum, SIGAR found the Taleban to be controlling, influencing or contesting 178 districts (43.7%).

The Long War Journal, which has been tracking the status of Afghanistan’s districts since the summer of 2015, six months before SIGAR, published its own assessment of the districts on 1 May 2018. According to the Journal and its three assessment levels (government-controlled, insurgent controlled, and contested), the Afghan government controls 159 districts (39%), the Taliban 39 districts (9.5%) (8), leaving 200 districts (49%) contested. It said it was not able to determine the status of 9 districts (2%). According to its data, the Taleban controls or is contesting 239 of Afghanistan’s 407 (59%) districts. (see here).

In early May this year, Defense Minister Tareq Shah Bahrami and Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak provided their own security assessment of the districts to the Wolesi Jirga. They considered 216 districts out of 387 districts (55.8%) to be insecure.

There is no sign that the balance between government and insurgency control or influence has significantly changed since these assessments.This is underscored by SIGAR’s new quarterly report published on 30 July which reported that while “the Afghan government halted the insurgency’s momentum in gaining control of Afghanistan’s districts” this quarter, “it failed to improve its own areas of control.” (see here.)

Whatever the exact numbers are, it is clear that much of Afghanistan will be too insecure to hold elections safely, given the conflict and the Taleban’s stated hostility to elections. The IEC was not able even to access 32 districts in 14 provinces due to insecurity when it conducted its nation-wide assessment of polling centres last year (this is according to a list received by AAN from the IEC in early January 2018 – see AAN’s previous reporting here). (9) Then, a day after voter registration was launched, on 15 April 2018, the Taleban called on the “Muslim and Mujahed people to boycott the cosmetic and fake process under the name of election,” making the statement (see AAN’s previous reporting on this here).

Since then, both the Taleban and the Daesh branch in Afghanistan, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), have claimed attacks on election staff and sites. As we reported at the time of voter registration, insecurity was a major factor causing initial low turn-out. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report about election-related incidents and civilian casualties on 10 May. It had, by then, verified 23 election-related security incidents since voter registration began on 14 April 2018. Not all attacks were claimed by or attributed to the Taleban. They had resulted, said UNAMA, in 271 civilian casualties (86 deaths and 185 injured) and the abduction of 26 civilians (read the report here). Since then, more election facilities and personnel have been targeted, see this media report of the Taleban storming a voter registration centre in Chakhansur district of Nimroz, killing seven police officers, and seizing election material after the raid, for example.

Conclusion: no future for district council elections?

The IEC did include district council elections in election planning. It then conducted an unsuccessful candidate nomination operation, with only 10 per cent of the country’s 387 districts producing enough nominations for a sensible and competitive election to be held. This insufficiency of candidates in 90 per cent of the districts has rendered elections politically meaningless, for lack of competition, in a majority of the country’s districts. If the IEC reopened a new candidate nomination process and then prepares the preliminary and final lists, it would cause a delay in the Wolesi Jirga elections, if both elections were not split. Moreover, security has not improved and it is not clear at all whether people will take an interest in nomination in the future. As a result, the IEC has proposed a delay in the district council elections.

The option now is to hold the district council elections together with the presidential and provincial elections, planned for 20 April 2019, as it can be surely assumed that a third election within six months is completely unimaginable. This would give the IDLG some more time to set the legal framework for the district councils. However, holding district council elections with the presidential and provincial council elections as well as the Wolesi Jirga election in Ghazni would severely complicate the presidential election, as would any overspill such as the long-winded disputes which have characterised most previous elections.

The likely unravelling of the 20 October district council elections appears to have stemmed from the government’s lack of clear and firm determination to hold them, exacerbated by contradictory and unhelpful remarks by certain officials. Those who have stood – according to the IEC report, a total of 6221 people (5801 men and 420 women) in districts in 33 provinces (excluding Ghazni; the number of those districts is not mentioned in the report), with 70 candidates (61 men and 9 women) excluded from the preliminary list – number 6,151. They were expecting to stand in and hoped to win their district council election. Some may be locally influential – and not very happy about matters.

The failure to hold district council elections will also delay the holding of any possible Constitutional Loya Jirga and therefore any amendments to the constitution. These may be wanted – whether because of efforts to find peace with the Taleban or because something solid has emerged out of the (interminable) debates about changing Afghanistan’s political system. Adopting any other mechanism apart from a Loya Jirga to amend the constitution would be tantamount to overturning the current constitutional order and starting a new arrangement from scratch. This also would add a significant amount of political instability to an already instable situation.

Edited by Kate Clark and Thomas Ruttig

 

(1) Article 104 of the electoral law sets out following provisions and procedures about postponement and suspension of elections:

  • When security situations, natural disasters and other similar conditions make impossible the principle of general and fair representation and undermine the credibility of the electoral process if elections are, the elections should be postponed from the specific date for a period of up to four months. The postponement or suspension is proposed by the IEC and approved by a committee, which should comprise head and members of the National Security Council, speakers of the two houses of the parliament, chief justice, and chair of the Independent Commission of Oversight of Implementation of the Constitution of Afghanistan 
  • If the situation mentioned above which led to postponement or suspension of the elections does not improve within the period of four months, the committee may extend the postponement or suspension of elections for a period of another four months.
  • The committee takes its decision by majority of votes of its members.
  • If the situation mentioned above is limited to one or more electoral constituencies, the committee may postpone holding elections in those particular electoral constituencies till improvement of the situation.
  • If elections in an electoral constituency are proved as defective, the IEC may order conducting new elections in that particular electoral constituency.
  • If elections are postponed or suspended, members of the elected bodies (for instance the Wolesi Jirga) should continue to serve in their positions until holding of a new elections and announcement of its results. (This does not apply to the delay in district council elections as they have not been elected before, but does apply to the current Ghazni MPs who, according to this provision, should continue to serve in the Wolesi Jirga if the Wolesi Jirga elections are postponed in that province.)

(2) Point eight of SERC’s recommendations on amendment to the constitution says:

Article (138) of the constitution about the provincial council elections should be revised in a manner that their members can be elected indirectly through Districts and Municipal Councils. 

Point nine says:

Based on the statistics provided by the Central Statistics Office, there are 45 thousands villages throughout the country, which constitute 70% of the population of the country. On the other side, conducting secret and direct elections at this number of constituencies in accordance with article (140) of the constitution will have numerous difficulties considering financial, security and logistical challenges. The Commission is recommending that Loya Jirga shall consider easier ways for the implementation of this article.

The idea here was to elect village councils informally, similar to community development councils under the National Solidarity and Citizen Charter programmes.

(3) Article 140 of the constitution reads:

Councils shall be established to organize activities as well as attain active participation of the people in provincial administrations in districts and in villages, in accordance with the provisions of the law. 

Local residents shall elect members of these councils for 3 years through free, general, secret, as well as direct elections. 

Participation of nomads in these local councils shall be regulated in accordance with the provisions of the law.

(4) According to article 110 of the constitution, cabinet ministers, the chief justice and members of the supreme court, as well as the attorney general will also participate in a Loya Jirga sessions but without the right to vote.

(5) Article 84 of the constitution says:

Members of the House of Elders shall be elected and appointed as follows:

  1. From amongst each provincial council members, one individual shall be elected by the respective council for a 4-year term;
  2. From amongst district councils of each province, one individual, elected by the respective councils, for a 3-year term;
  3. The remaining one third of the members shall be appointed by the President, for a 5-year term, from amongst experts and experienced personalities, including two members from amongst the impaired and handicapped, as well as two from nomads.

The President shall appoint 50 percent of these individuals from amongst women. The individual selected as a member of the House of Elders shall lose membership to the related Council, and, another individual shall be appointed in accordance with the provisions of the law.

(6) These are additions to the general requirements of being a voter in Afghanistan according to article 37 of the law: being a citizen and at least 18 years old; not having been deprived of civil rights by the law or a competent court; being registered on the voter list.

Of all these stipulations, what proved most problematic was the education criterion. To put the provision on educational qualification into practice, the IEC put in place even a more rigorous regulation (approved on 6 May) than the law itself for nominations: Prospective candidates had to “present clear and attested copy of graduation certificate from grade 12,” that is, the document had to be first copied and then attested to that “the copy is in accordance with the original” with the stamp of the Ministry of Education. (See the regulation in Dari here).

While this may have been aimed at screening candidates without genuine 12thgrade education, it will have been time-consuming for potential district council candidates to get the paperwork and may have put off some would-be councillors from standing.

(7) Article 44 of the electoral law lays down the following rules:

  • the following persons have to resign from their positions before nominating themselves for any elected seats: chief justice and members of the supreme court and other judges; attorney general, prosecutors and professional members of the Attorney General Office; ministers, advisor minister, advisors to the president, deputy ministers, heads of agencies and their deputies, chairpersons and members of independent commissions, provincial governors and their deputies, district governors, ambassadors, and the staff of the political missions of the country resident abroad; military personnel of the Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Interior Affairs and General Directorate of National Security and other ministries and bodies with military set-up; civil servants; temporary or permanent staff of the IEC; instructors of the governmental institutes of higher education and members of the academic cadre of the Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan. If the above-mentioned categories of potential candidates do not win election, they may be re-appointed in accordance with the provisions of the law, except for the civil servants and instructors.
  • It also bans persons who are commanders or members of illegal armed groups from participating in elections as a candidate. A separate commission comprising representatives of the Ministries of National Defense and Interior Affairs, General Directorate of National Security and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance to be chaired by the chairperson of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) vets and decides potential candidates’ links to illegal armed groups. The ECC adjudicates any complaint in this regard and its decisions are final.
  • If members of an elected body intend to nominate themselves for a seat in another elected body, they should resign from their current seats. (Members of the provincial and district councils who nominate themselves for the membership of Meshrano Jirga or members of Meshrano Jirga who nominate themselves for the membership of provincial or district council are an exception to this provision.)
  • If an appointed member of the Meshrano Jirga intends to nominate themselves for an elected seat, they should resign from their current seat.
  • No one can nominate themselves at the same time in more than one electoral constituency or for more than one elected seat.

(8) Following is the list of districts that, according to the Long War Journal, are under Taleban control. As seen below, the Journal also provides additional background information about most of these districts (with some additional comment by AAN):

Helmand: 1) Reg (Khaneshin), 2) Dishu: the Afghan government admitted Dishu was under Taleban control in June 2015; 3) Kajaki: the Journal previously identified it as contested. Assessment based on Resolute Support/SIGAR determination; 4) Naw Zad: it is contested between Taleban and Afghan government control. The Taleban claimed to have captured the district on 29 July 2015. Reuters reported the district is under Taleban control in December 2015; 5) Baghran: it has been under the Taleban control since before the US surge began in 2009; 6) Musa Qala: it fell to the Taleban on 26 August 2015. Afghan forces claimed to retake the district four days later. Reuters reported in December 2015 the district was still under Taleban control. It fell back under the Taleban control on 20 February 2016; 7) Sangin: the Taleban overran the district center in March 2017 and paraded their forces there.

Kandahar: 8) Maruf: the Taleban seized control on 16 October 2017. The Taleban previously overran the district centre on 27 September 2017 and seized weapons and other supplies, and then withdrew hours later. 9) Miya Neshin.

Paktika: 10) Wazakhwa: the Taleban has controlled the district since the summer of 2016; 11) Gayan: in May 2017, the Taleban enforced sharia in this district, threatening students with large fines for shaving beards, wearing ties, or contacting the government; 12) Omna: it fell to the Taleban on 5 September after a five day siege.

Ghazni: 13) Nawa: it is a traditional stronghold of the Taleban. The ANA recaptured the district briefly in May 2015, but the Taleban claimed that they retook the district on 15 May 2015. The Afghan government admitted in June 2016 that the Taleban controls Nawa. Afghan media also said on 31 July 2017 that the district was controlled by the Taleban; 14) Andar (also known as Shilgar): the Taleban overran the district centre on 17 October 2017. Afghan forces claimed that they retook the district on 20 October. The district had been contested for years. 15) Zana Khan: seized by the Taleban in August 2017 after clashes with ANSF.

Zabul: 16) Arghandab: the Taleban have controlled the district so thoroughly that in 2015 clashes between rival factions broke out; 17) Kakar (also known as Khak-e Afghan): the Taleban have controlled the district so thoroughly that in 2015 clashes between rival factions broke out.

Farah: 18) Gulistan: The Taleban claimed they took control there on 23 December 2015; 19) Bala Buluk: the Taleban overran the district centre on 14 October 2015; 20) Khak-e Safid: the Taleban captured it on 30 September 2015.

Faryab: 21) Ghormach: the Taleban overran it in August 2017. This remote district has changed hands several times since late 2014; 22) Pashtun Kot: the Taleban overran it on 8 October 2015; 23) Kohistan: it switched several times between Taleban and government control during the summer and fall of 2017. Currently, the Taleban control it.

Jawzjan: 24) Darzab: the district was controlled by a self-declared ISKP group until recently, but the Taleban have wrested back control (AAN analysis here). The government maintains some token presence in the district centre.

Sar-e-Pul: 25) Kohistanat: the Taleban overran it on 28 July 2015.

Baghlan: 26) Dahana-ye Ghuri:  as of 27 October 2016, Afghan troops abandoned several bases in the district and fled to the district centre; 27) Guzargahi-e Nur: the Taleban overran it in July 2017.

Badakhshan: 28) Warduj: the Taleban overran it on 1 October2015. The district has changed hands several times in the past; 29) Yamgan (Girwan): it has switched hands several times. Most recently, the Taleban claimed it recaptured the district on 18 November 2015.

Kunar: 30) Chapa Dara: the Taleban overran it on 25 August 2017.

Kapisa: 31) Tagab: while security forces are present in the district, the Taleban are enforcing sharia there.

Logar: 32) Azra: the Taleban control all but four villages in this district; 33) Charkh: more than 95 per cent of it is under Taleban control, Afghan officials said in December 2014; 34) Kharwar.

Maidan Wardak: 35) Sayed Abad, with some token government presence.

Paktia: 36) Jani Khel: the Taleban overran Jani Khel, a known stronghold of the Haqqani network, in July 2017; situation remains unclear; 37) Zurmat:  it is firmly in control of the Taleban and “they can operate in the open there,” one intelligence official told the Journal. The government maintains some token control and US and Afghan forces resort to airstrikes to target the Taleban operating there.

(9) Following is the district list that AAN received from IEC:

1) Maidan Wardak: Jaghatu; 2) Nangarhar: Hisarak; 3) Baghlan: Dahana-ye Ghori; 4) Ghazni: Zanakhan (under Taleban control), 5) Giro (only district centre with the government) 6) Ajristan (only district centre with the government) 7) Nawa; 8) Paktika: Neka, 9) Gyan and 10) Dela; 11) Badakhshan: Warduj and 12) Yamgan (both are completely under the Taleban); 13) Kunduz: Qulbad and 14) Gul Tape of (both under the Taleban control); 15) Urozgan: Chora, 16) Shahid-e Hassas and 17) Chinarto; 18) Kandahar: Miyaneshin, 19) Shorabak and 20) Reg; 21) Faryab: Kohistan; 22) Helmand: Nawzad, 23) Sangin, 24) Musa Qala, 25) Reg (Khanneshin), 26) Baghran and 27) Disho; 28) Badghis: Ghormach; 29) Herat: Farsi, 30) Zer Koh and31) Pusht Koh; 32) Farah: Bakwa.

 

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Thematic Category: Political Landscape