Transitional Support to Elections in Afghanistan

An Afghan woman inks her finger at Resalat Mosque polling center in Kabul, on June 14, 2014. Credit: UNDP Afghanistan / ELECT II / Rada

Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT II) provided direct support to Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) from 2012 to mid 2015. It also supported the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC).

In 2014, ELECT II contributed towards the peaceful and historic transition of power from President Hamid Karzai to a National Unity Government, with Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as President and Abdullah Abdullah as Chief Executive Officer.

ELECT II provided support to the IEC, which conducted the two rounds of the Presidential Election (a first round on 5 April and a run-off round on 14 June), plus 34 Provincial Council Elections (held on the same day as the first round of the Presidential Election).

Election Day on 5 April was widely seen as a success, with a high voter turnout. Some 6.6 million Afghans, of whom 36% were women, cast valid votes. Following Election Day on 14 June, both sides accused each other of large-scale fraud. The impasse was overcome when the United States, together with the UN, brokered an agreement between the candidates for a full audit to be conducted by the IEC under the supervision of the UN and in the presence of national and international observers.

ELECT II supported the IEC to organise and execute a national audit of all votes cast in the run-off round of the Presidential Election. The audit and recount, unprecedented globally in its scale and scope, was an intensive two-month operation. ELECT II and other UN international staff provided robust and highly visible supervision at the explicit request of the Afghan authorities.

Key aspects of ELECT II’s work included:

Institutional Capacity Development: ELECT II supported the IEC through development of its human, organizational and technical capacity. Project advisors were embedded within the IEC and worked directly with their Afghan counterparts. Sustaining and developing electoral facilities, systems, and infrastructure was a key objective, including the construction of provincial offices.

Electoral Operations: ELECT II assisted the IEC with the development of all necessary electoral plans. The project also supported the IEC with the conduct of pre-election operations, such as the voter registration ‘top-up’ (essentially for new and first-time voters) and the candidate nomination process.

Public Outreach: ELECT II supported the IEC with the development and implementation of an integrated public outreach campaign, to inform the public, and in particular women, about voters’ rights and responsibilities. The overall objective was to achieve broader democratic participation and inclusive engagement in the elections. 

IECC and Media Commission: ELECT II supported the functioning of the IECC to permit timely and effective resolution of complaints and appeals. To avoid any conflict of interest, project support to the IECC was delegated to two subcontracting partners: the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

International donors share the desire of the Afghan Government to improve the financial and institutional sustainability of the country’s electoral management bodies, as well as the Government’s ambition to enhance electoral integrity. While reiterating the international community’s support for Afghan-led and owned electoral processes, institutions, and reforms, donors have realigned funding in line with a transition to the Afghan Government bearing costs for IEC and IECC staff salaries and operational expenses, which started in June 2015.

The Special Electoral Reform Commission, which is charged with bringing fundamental changes to the electoral system and building trust between the people and government‎, was convened on 22 July 2015, but no date has been selected for Parliamentary and District Council Elections. In this interim period, UNDP’s election team continues to provide support with a significantly scaled down presence.


ELECT II has now been replaced by the Transitional Support to Elections in Afghanistan Project Initiation Plan. This represents the international community’s support to electoral institutions in Afghanistan for the period between the operational closure of ELECT II and the development and signing of the next longer-term project.

By means of a skeleton technical advisory team, the project:

  • supports the SERC to provide electoral reform recommendations;
  • assists the IEC and IECC to transition to fully state-funded bodies and to prepare operational plans, timelines and budgets for the next elections; and
  • fosters national and international stakeholder engagement in finalizing a future electoral support project funded by donors through UNDP.

What we have accomplished so far?

The UNDP ELECT II project was part of a broad process, whereby international support is reduced, incrementally, as Afghanistan’s electoral management bodies grow better equipped to plan and conduct elections, and to operate as national institutions.

National Ownership and Capacity

The 2014 Presidential and Provincial Council Elections were a landmark, culminating in the nation’s first peaceful, democratic transition of power. Perhaps the largest and most complex civilian operations to have occurred in Afghanistan’s recent history, requiring more than 100,000 polling staff in more than 6,000 locations for two election days, these elections were Afghan-led and required less international support than any election before.

ELECT II played a strictly advisory role in the process, with just 54 international staff on hand – a reduction of 90% from the 575 international staff required to support the first national election in 2004.

Protection of Electoral Integrity

A number of technical advances in 2014 electoral operations enhanced electoral integrity and increased transparency to stakeholders. These included improvements to voter registration card quality – effectively addressing issues related to forged cards; use of unique serial numbers on all materials in the production, packing and tracking of sensitive electoral materials; enhanced training; introduction of a robust Election Day monitoring system; increased transparency of district field coordinator recruitment; and improvements to the results management system.

Female Participation

Gender discrimination has been a persistent impediment to representational participation in every election. Nonetheless, positive trends and indicators may be observed in a number of areas:

  • In a top-up exercise, conducted in advance of 2014 elections, 2,488,526 women registered as voters – a marked increase over 2009, when less than two million (1,809,194) women registered.
  • In spite of risks to their security, 2.6 million female voters cast their ballots in 2014 – an increase of almost half a million over the 2.2 who participated in 2009.
  • Women were better represented at various levels of electoral management and operations. Three of the nine Commissioners (33%) appointed to oversee the conduct of the 2014 elections were women. Among temporary electoral staff, 21% of District Field Coordinators and 33% of Civic Voter Educators were women – an increase over 2010 by 8.5 and 3%, respectively.
  • Moreover, of the 97 female candidates winning seats in 2014, 18 did so without the advantage of the gender quota; and the three highest-placing winners in Kabul were women, demonstrating confidence in the ability of women to assume leadership roles.

Who Finances it?

Donor name

Amount contributed per year in US$


Government of United Kingdom


European Union


Government of Denmark


Government of Germany


Government of Netherlands


Government of Norway


Government of Swedan


Government of Switzerland


Government of United States of America


Government of Republic of Korea


Government of Italy



Government of Australia


Government of United Kingdom


Government of Turkey


Government of Denmark


Government of France


Government of Italy


Government of Japan


Government of Netherlands


Government of Norway


Government of Swedan


Government of United States of America



Government of Australia


Government of United Kingdom


European Union


Government of Denmark


Goverment of Germany


Government of Japan


Government of Norway


Government of Swedan



Government of Denmark


Delivery in previous fiscal year in US$

Dec 2014


Dec 2013


Dec 2012


At a Glance
Start Date:
August 2015
End Date:
December 2015
Geographic coverage:
Focus Area:
Democratic Governance
National Priority Programme:
NPP 1: National Transparency and Accountability (to build public trust and legitimacy of the government) NPP 4: National Action Plan for Women of Afghanistan (to implement the Government’s commitment to gender equality by developing the capacities of all relevant government entities) NPP 5: The National Law and Justice for All Program (to provide better access to judicial services for all Afghans, and timely and effective judicial relief is central to a credible electoral process) NPP 6: Afghanistan Human Rights and Civic Responsibility (strengthen the independence and sustainability of Afghan national constitutional and other specialized institutions)
Chief Technical Advisor:
Darren Nance
UNDP Focal Point:
Mir Nadia Nivin, Programme Specialist - Elections
Australia, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Switzerland.
Implementing Modality:
National Implementation
Implementing Partners:
Independent Election Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan.
US$ 2,119,957
Open Data

Detailed information on ELECT II and 6,000+ UNDP development projects in 177 countries and territories worldwide.

Project Initiation Plan (PIP)

This Project Initiation Plan (PIP) is a vehicle through which the international community may continue its support to electoral management bodies. It is intended to bridge the period between the operational closure of the ELECT II project on 31 July 2015, and the signing of a new project document, defining the terms and modalities of future electoral support, to be implemented partnership with the National Unity Government (NUG).

View the PIP