What follows Afghan elections is just as important as the polls themselves
KABUL - In two days, Afghans will cast their votes in an historic election marking the passage of political authority from one elected president to another.
In a time of uncertainty, a smooth transfer of power is critical to reinforcing political stability and instilling confidence in the people of Afghanistan. For it is the people of Afghanistan who must be the judge of the credibility and acceptability of the process.
These polls will not be perfect but are another important step in strengthening the country’s representative institutions and building its democratic tradition. They can also provide a popular mandate – across ethnic lines – for wider political, economic and social development agendas.
History is already being made. For the first time, Afghanistan's state and independent electoral authorities are fully responsible for administering, securing, and adjudicating these polls on the basis of agreed legislation. Positive momentum sees technical preparations today being further advanced than at the same juncture in any previous electoral cycle.
Security will be a key challenge. There are spoilers and extremists, including the Taliban, who threaten to disrupt, or even target, what is a civilian process. Afghan authorities are taking a proactive approach to protecting the electoral process and civilians who seek to participate as voters, election workers, candidates, and national and international observers. This includes an emphasis on securing women’s right of participation.
Fraud is the other major risk. In contributing to the credibility of the process electoral institutions and observers have an important role in its prevention and mitigation. For fraud is a failed strategy, and will only erode the trust among the Afghan people.
Ultimately, it is the candidates themselves who must bear the primary responsibility to prevent fraud being committed in their name. I urge them to guide and shape the actions and attitudes of their supporters with serious public commitments to opposing irregularities.
There will, inevitably, be flaws. In cases of alleged electoral violations, complainants must seek immediate redress through institutional means.
As with all elections, there will be winners and losers. What follows election day will be even more important that what precedes it.
Post-election, candidates, whether successful or not, need to support the newly-elected leadership. Such collaboration, drawing together diverse constituencies and very different expertise, will be important for the sake of national unity and continued momentum in the socio-economic achievements of the last 12 years.
The United Nations and international community are committed to long-term support for Afghanistan and its people. Even amidst the large-scale drawdown of international military forces and many new different threats and challenges emerging around the world, the levels of international assistance pledged to Afghanistan remains truly exceptional.
A credible electoral process, along with a commitment by all of those standing for high office to work together in the wake of the polls, will be an important step in reinforcing this level of engagement.
I urge all Afghans to exercise their franchise and make their choice for the future. A future in which decisions are made through ballots, not bullets.