Transitional Support to Elections in Afghanistan

ELECTZarifa Baraki, a teacher serving as a polling station registration officer in Kabul during the 2014 presidential election. Photos © UNDP Afghanistan / Lorenzo Tugnoli / 2014

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 to 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.


 An Afghan woman inks her finger at Quran o Utrat Mosque polling center in Kabul on June 14, 2014. Photo © UNDP Afghanistan / Rada / 2014

Key aspects of ELECT II’s work included:

Institutional Capacity Development: ELECT II supported capacity development at the IEC. Project advisors were embedded within the IEC and worked directly with Afghan counterparts. 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 electoral plans and the conduct of pre-election operations, including voter registration ‘top-ups’ and candidate nomination. 

Public Outreach: ELECT II supported the IEC with outreach campaigns to inform the public, particularly women, about voters’ rights and responsibilities. 

IECC and Media Commission: ELECT II supported the IECC on timely and effective resolution of complaints and appeals. To avoid any conflict of interest, this support was delegated to UNOPS and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

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. 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 prepare operational plans, timelines and budgets for the next elections; and fosters 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.

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

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. 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 participation in every election. Nonetheless:
  • In advance of 2014 elections, 2.5 million women registered compared to 1.8 million in 2009.
  • 2.6 million female voters cast their ballots in 2014 compared to only 2.2 million in 2009.
  • Women were better represented at various levels of electoral management and operations. Three of the nine Commissioners 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 of 8.5% and 3%, respectively.
  • There were more female candidates in 2014 than in any past election. Women accounted for 296 (13%) of the candidates running for Provincial Council seats (compared with 9% in 2005 and 10% in 2009). 
  • 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. 

Who Finances it?

Donor name

Amount contributed per year in US$


Government of United Kingdom


European Unioin


Government of Denmark


Government of Netherlands


Government of Norway


Government of Swedan


Government of Switzerland


Government of United States


Government of United Kingdom 4,972,236

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 2015


Dec 2014


Dec 2013


Dec 2012