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Afghans Express Election-Related Fears


Afghanistan -- President Karzai met with Presidential candidates a Gulkhana palace, Afghan candidates, 06 January 2014
Afghans view this year's presidential election as necessary for ensuring a peaceful transfer of power, but worries over the process are abundant.

Afghan lawmakers and experts participating in a recent Radio Free Afghanistan call-in show, "On the Waves of Freedom," said the likelihood of the election moving into a second round because of the crowded presidential field might complicate the process.

Ajmal Hodman, a political commentator, said that the current 11 presidential candidates have dashed Afghan hopes for change. "Unfortunately, eight or nine of the candidates were members of a government that ruled Afghanistan in the past 12 years," he says. "These people are responsible for corruption and waste of resources."

Hodman said a good leader's job is to keep alive the hopes of a better tomorrow among the masses. "We can't see a candidate representing a clear vision or values. They are all individuals who are just seeking power," he said.

Halim Fedai, a former provincial governor, said April's presidential polls offer the hope of the first peaceful transfer of power in Afghan history, but Afghans only have the choice of voting for competing individuals rather than being able to choose between different political visions.

"Due to the lack of strong political parties, most Afghan politicians are focused on individual appeal rather then offering competing visions of a political system," he said.

Fedai and several civil society leaders are working to narrow the presidential field by convincing some candidates to stand down.

Lawmaker Jabar Qahraman criticized Afghan President Hamid Karzai for failing to create a vibrant political culture and robust political institutions.

"When I see that he [Karzai] is building a house near the presidential palace, I have doubts about the transparency of the elections and my hopes for a real change fade"
"Karzai is the architect of the ongoing political game. I have reached the conclusion that the problems are created by the presidential palace because the majority of the presidential candidates have the same vision and programs," Qahraman said. "When I see that he [Karzai] is building a house near the presidential palace, I have doubts about the transparency of the elections and my hopes for a real change fade."

Fawzia Koofi, an outspoken Afghan woman lawmaker, says regulations have made it very difficult for women to run in the presidential election.

One condition that requires each presidential candidate to collect 100,000 signatures from at least 22 Afghan provinces presents Afghan women with an unsurmountable challenge, she said. "This is why we don't have a female candidate for the presidential election."

Koofi added that the large number of presidential candidates is likely to divide Afghan society along tribal, religious and regional lines.

On the positive side, she believes that the presidential election is likely to politicize Afghan society. "In the end it is better to express political will through a ballot rather than a bullet," she said.

One caller, identifying himself as Akhtary, said that strong political parties are a prerequisite for establishing the rule of law. "In the presence of credible political parties in Afghanistan, the government will behave and serve its people more efficiently and responsibly," he said.

"On The Waves of Freedom" is a weekly, two-hour long radio call-in show known for sharp analysis and political commentary. Every Thursday millions of Afghans in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan tune in to the show, which is a flagship program of Radio Free Afghanistan, or Radio Azadi as it is known locally.

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