Kabul provincial council candidates try to scrape together their campaign and to attract the attention of the city and district voters. A closer look at how this works, through the eyes of three Kabul contenders – let’s call them Shafiqa, Engineer Ahmad and ‘Mohammad the Poor Guy’.
As a provincial council contender it makes sense to link yourself to a presidential candidate: you get your costs paid and in exchange you use your network for both campaigns. Shafiqa had originally linked herself to the Ashraf Ghani campaign, but changed sides when she saw how other many female candidates there were – finding it hard to believe that she would be well supported with so many contenders. So she settled on Dr Abdullah and joined his campaign team. They had promised to pay for the posters, pictures and transport costs, but the recent shortage of money meant that the transport costs now had to come from her own pocket. She complements her budget by work in support of other presidential candidates (let’s say she’s a speech writer – which she’s not – but she works for them in a professional capacity, not as a campaigner) and her family have also contributed. Her main campaign strategy is to visit people in their homes and sometimes in the mosques. The posters help people to identify who she is, but will probably not persuade them to vote, which is why she goes to convince them herself.
Shafiqa believes that every election in every country has a fair amount of cheating (and that Afghanistan in past elections had A LOT), but is somehow reassured by IEC statements that they will act against fraud. She should know. She explained how in the past election polling staff managed to pull off fraud even in a Kabul polling station, where monitoring is supposed to be much better: two polling staff members made a huge fuss, getting into a fight that attracted and held the attention of the policemen, while the rest of the staff stuffed away (or actually she said: while the rest of the polling staff voted). Once the boxes were more or less full, at around 9 in the morning, they spent the rest of the day waiting for the few voters that turned up.
Many provincial council candidates campaign on issues that are far beyond their mandate. Engineer Ahmad for instance is campaigning on a platform of: Islamic government, justice and job creation, in particular for the newly graduated, as well as protection of the rights of teachers, civil servants and people in general. I guess it aims to tell voters what kind of person you are (or want to be), but it sets everybody up for disappointment. And Engineer Ahmad didn’t seem to have any specific credentials, with an undisclosed profession and a vague reference to being known by large parts of the Kabul population (for undisclosed reasons). He said he hoped to receive the votes of people in the districts, people who were fed up with their local candidates and their involvements in land disputes and longstanding feuds. Maybe. Maybe he was already formulating a rationalisation for an unexpected win.
A third Kabul candidate had been the subject of an unfortunate name mix-up. Instead of being called ‘Mohammad the Rival’, his name had been printed on the ballot as ‘Mohammad the Poor Guy’. He cited this as proof of how likely it was that there was going to be fraud. But if he won, he would still be allowed to take his place in the provincial council. He had checked.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020