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 Political Affairs

The Political Affairs Division at UNAMA supports political outreach, conflict resolution, disarmament and regional cooperation. The political mandate of UNAMA supported the implementation of the institutional and political objectives of the Bonn Agreement, signed in November 2001, as well as a range of peace-building tasks.

Political Affairs also includes an Election Support Unit, a Military Advisory Unit, a Governance Unit, a Police Advisory Unit and a Rule of Law Unit, which are responsible for coordinating international support for institution-building in each of those sectors.

The key aspects of the political mandate include: preventing and resolving conflicts; building confidence and promoting national reconciliation; monitoring and advising on the political and human rights situation; investigating and making recommendations relating to human rights violations; maintaining a dialogue with Afghan leaders, political parties, civil society groups, institutions, and representatives of central, regional and provincial authorities; recommending corrective actions; and undertaking good offices when necessary to further the peace process.

UNAMA plays a key role in promoting a coherent international engagement in Afghanistan, supporting regional cooperation, promoting humanitarian coordination and contributing to human rights protection and promotion, including monitoring the situation of civilians in the armed conflict.

 

Secretary-General's latest report

The UN Secretary General's report to the Security Council released on 18 June 2014 provides an update of UNAMA political development activities since 7 March 2014, listed below. For a full copy of the latest report, click here
 

A. Political developments

1. The sixteenth legislative term of the National Assembly was inaugurated on 15 March. In addressing the Assembly at its opening session for the last time, President Karzai emphasized that government authorities and security institutions would do everything possible to ensure that the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections would be credible and free of official interference. The President was adamant that the formal commencement of a peace process was a precondition to signing a bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States, and called on political leaders to preserve national unity, freedom of expression and women’s rights. One of the first acts of the lower house of the National Assembly (Wolesi Jirga) was to confirm President Karzai’s appointment of the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Younus Qanooni, to the post of First Vice-President following the death, on 9 March, of Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim.

2. Technical preparations for the elections were completed on schedule. On 28 March, the Independent Election Commission’s voter registration top-up exercise was concluded, with 3,746,755 new voter cards issued, of which 35 per cent to women. An attack by insurgents on the Commission’s Kabul headquarters on 29 March interrupted work only briefly, as the most sensitive materials had already been distributed to the provinces. The campaign period in February and March was marked by large-scale rallies and, for the first time, a series of television debates between presidential candidates. These debates, together with local mobilization efforts around the provincial council polls, were seen to have contributed to civic awareness and voter turnout. All the campaign teams addressed women’s issues as part of their platforms; three of the teams included female vice-presidential candidates on the ticket. During the final days of the campaign, 3 of the 11 presidential candidates withdrew: Abdul Qayum Karzai, Abdul Rahim Wardak and Sardar Mohammad Nader Naim. In the course of an assessment of the eligibility of provincial council candidates, the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission disqualified a further 114 candidates, mainly for not meeting age and education criteria. After resignations and withdrawals, the final number of aspirants in the provincial council elections was 2,591, of whom 296 were women.

3. Afghan security institutions oversaw the planning and implementation of election security, with the Ministry of the Interior in the lead. Two major operations, involving over 35,000 personnel, were conducted in the south and south-east of Afghanistan at the beginning of March as a prelude to the countrywide security operation for the first round of voting. In order to better secure women’s participation, the Ministry of the Interior trained 581 women police officers and 2,245 civilians and recruited 13,690 “female searchers” (women who search women voters) for polling day. In March and April, the Taliban issued a number of statements declaring its intent to violently disrupt the electoral process and threatening participants. Complex attacks on the Kabul and Laghman provincial offices of the Independent Election Commission, on 23 and 26 March respectively, were followed by the assault on the Commission’s headquarters. The Kabul provincial office attack killed three civilians and injured four more, including election workers and a provincial council candidate.

4. On 5 April, voting took place in 6,082 polling centres (the total number of polling stations was 19,784). The Commission reported that 15 per cent of the 7,173 polling centres that had been planned originally were closed owing to security concerns or logistical issues, including 341 that were unable to open on election day. There were 7,018,849 votes recorded on election day, of which 36 per cent in women’s polling stations. The most pressing technical issue on election day proved to be ballot allocation. The higher-than-expected turnout in some areas, mainly urban centres, highlighted the difficulties in accurately predicting population movements in the absence of polling centre-specific voter lists. Contingency ballots, pre-positioned by the Commission as a precautionary measure, were released in all 34 provinces. Overall, the Afghan public and media reacted positively to the performance of the national security forces, which was widely praised by Afghan and international partners.

5. On 26 April, the Commission released the preliminary results of the presidential elections, the final outcome being subject to the resolution of objections raised during a so-called “complaints period”. The Complaints Commission’s adjudication process included the holding of five open sessions in the presence of the media and the submission of its decisions on 14 May. The Commission released the final results, based on 6,604,546 votes assessed as valid, on 15 May. The final results changed little from the preliminary outcomes: Abdullah Abdullah (45 per cent); Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (31.6 per cent); Zalmai Rassul (11.4 per cent); Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf (7.3 per cent); Qutbudin Hilal (2.8 per cent); Agha Sherzai (1.6 per cent); Daud Sultanzoy (0.5 per cent); and Hedayat Amin Arsala (0.2 per cent). With no candidate gaining more than 50 per cent of the vote, a second round of polling between the two front-runners is required under the Constitution. On the same day, the Commission published the electoral timetable for the run-off.

6. On 15 May, Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani held separate press conferences announcing their respective intention to contest the run-off poll and thanking the citizens of Afghanistan for participating. Both candidates demanded technical improvements by the electoral management bodies prior to the second round. Political realignment continued throughout the period, with, for example, former candidates Mr. Rassul and Mr. Sherzai, as well as Mr. Sayyaf’s running mate, Mohammad Ismail Khan, publicly backing Mr. Abdullah. Mr. Ghani received the support of Mr. Sultanzoy and of Mr. Rassul’s first vice-presidential nominee, Ahmad Zia Massoud.

7. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s armed opposition group, Hezb-e Islami, announced on 10 May that it would boycott the second round of voting given both front-runners’ commitment to signing a bilateral security agreement with the United States. The Hezb-e Islami leadership, however, stated that the group would not target the electoral process or citizens who participated in voting. The Taliban continued to publicly condemn the elections: in a statement dated 2 June, it again threatened electoral workers and polling sites and warned citizens to avoid polling locations.

8. On 20 May, preliminary results for the 458 seats on the 34 provincial councils were released by the Commission. A total of 588 polling stations had been disqualified. Of the preliminary winners, 97 were women (legislation requires that 20 per cent of provincial council seats throughout the country be held by women). The Complaints Commission held open hearings between31 May and 5 June. Owing to the large volume of complaints —1,283 relating to the election and 1,635 to the preliminary results —the announcement of final results, originally scheduled for 7 June, was delayed.

9. The transparency of elections was enhanced by the presence of observers and party and candidate agents. Observation efforts largely depended on 67 national organizations, which sent 14,585 observers across the country for the first round. In addition, 362,780 party and candidate agents were registered, for the first round, of whom 23 per cent were women. International observers, while modest in number, supported the process with technical assistance and expertise.

10. Within its mandated support role, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) maintained close contact with candidates, campaign teams and the electoral institutions. Throughout the electoral process, and notably amid a rise in rhetoric prior to the release of the preliminary tally and final results, my Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, urged all parties to act responsibly and respect the two mandated electoral bodies, which should, in turn, cooperate closely in ensuring transparent decision-making and a timely, credible process. Through the second phase of the electoral support project entitled “Enhancing legal and electoral capacity for tomorrow” (ELECT II), the United Nations continued to provide technical and financial assistance to the electoral bodies.

11. Preparations for a second round of voting remained on track, although, with the launch of the campaign period on 22 May, the two candidates’ rhetoric was noticeably sharper than during the first round. UNAMA continued to encourage a respectful campaign in the interests of national unity. The Commission’s distribution of ballot papers and sensitive material to the provinces was completed by 25 May and district-level delivery commenced on 2 June. A “lessons learned” exercise based on experience gained during the first round sought to ensure improvements in the administration of the process, as did the blacklisting of some 5,000 (of 100,000) electoral workers for suspicion of engagement in irregularities. On 4 June, following the conduct of security risk assessments by the Ministry of the Interior, the Commission announced that it planned to open 6,272 polling centres with a total of 22,879 polling stations. Security planning for the second round included a one-day meeting, hosted by the Minister of the Interior, of all provincial police chiefs in Kabul on 21 May and six regional security briefs for senior security and electoral personnel and provincial governors from 3 to 7 June. On 6 June, two suicide bombers attacked the convoy of Mr. Abdullah in the west of Kabul. The presidential candidate was unharmed, although 13 civilians were killed and 43 were injured in the blasts, which took place on a busy road in the capital.

12. UNAMA continued to promote local dialogue and peace initiatives that were focused, during the reporting period, on managing tensions and on potential fault lines around the elections. Ten initiatives have been launched in 12 provinces. They have included forums to promote dialogue among diverse local political stakeholders from Farah, Herat, Kandahar, Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Nuristan and Paktya provinces. The role of ulema in supporting the peaceful conduct of elections through gatherings of clerics from Balkh, Kapisa and Samangan provinces was also recognized. Separately, between 12 and 15 May, at the request of the parties, UNAMA hosted a traditional assembly of elders in Jalalabad to seek an end to a century-old conflict between two tribes in the remote neighbouring province of Nuristan. More than 70 representatives agreed to stop planting landmines and explosives, to rebuild homes destroyed in the conflict and to establish a mechanism by which to resolve land and property disputes. UNAMA also continued to provide assistance for the Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace, a civil society initiative that facilitated the finalization, in April, of 30 provincial “road maps” for peace. On 10 June, a report summarizing the main findings of the second phase of the initiative was launched. Proposed conflict-mitigation measures included tackling corruption, which is widespread, including through reform and oversight of local institutions, disempowering and disarming militias, promoting human rights, equitable development and access to services, and making the peace process more inclusive.

13. There were no significant developments with regard to the peace process during the reporting period. A former Taliban-era official, Agha Jan Mutasim, who had sought to launch an “intra-Afghan dialogue” in the United Arab Emirates, was said by Afghan authorities on 14 April to be missing. He subsequently arrived in Kabul and indicated that he would soon seek to restart his efforts. Shifts within the Taliban movement during the period appear to have resulted in more hard-line elements coming to the fore, including through the replacement of the head of the Taliban’s Military Commission. In a statement dated 26 April, the Taliban confirmed the move while denying speculation that it was related to dissatisfaction at the failure to disrupt the first round of polling to a meaningful extent. On 31 May, it was announced that a United States soldier in Taliban captivity had been released in exchange for five senior Taliban detainees. In a statement, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, hailed the exchange as having the potential to “open the door for broader discussions among Afghans about the future of their country by building confidence”. On 1 June, a statement purportedly from the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, welcomed the transfer of the detainees to Qatar. On 2 June, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan published a statement expressing dissatisfaction with the manner of the release. Separately, the joint secretariat of the High Peace Council reported that as at 25 May 8,551 individuals in 33 provinces had joined the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme, which is aimed at drawing lower-level fighters off the battlefield.