The UN Electoral Support Project (UNESP) provides direct support to Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) to conduct the electoral cycles in Afghanistan from October 2017 to December 2019.
The project follows previous UN projects in support of the Afghan electoral process, most notably the Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT) projects, from 2006-2011 (ELECT I) and 2012-2015 (ELECT II), and the UNDP Project Initiation Plan July 2015 – October 2017.
In comparison to earlier electoral assistance projects, UNESP has a much smaller footprint, both technically and financially: a small team of international advisors support the work of Afghanistan’s electoral management bodies. The UNESP is implemented by 111 staff comprising 43 international advisors and specialists and 68 national staff.
Although most of the operational electoral budget is still covered by the international donor community, the Government of Afghanistan now takes part in financial commitment to both electoral institutions and the implementation of elections by covering staff salaries and operational expenses.
What has been accomplished so far? (as of 31 July 2019)
Voter Registration: With UNESP assistance, the IEC successfully launched the Voter Registration (VR) process across the country on 14 April, with the VR period extended until 28 July 2018. The VR process in whole was divided into three phases, allowing Afghan citizens to register to vote in the country capital and the provincial capitals (Phase I), in the district centres (Phase II), and in villages (Phase III). The project assisted the IEC with procurement and logistics as well as a targeted outreach campaign that was planned, designed and implemented with support from UNESP. At least 8,899,941 voters comprising 8,728,284 regular voters (3,050,558 women), 171,304 Kuchi voters (38,685 women) and 353 Sikh voters (171 women) registered to vote. Through UNESP support, the IEC was able to complete Voter Registration (VR) for the parliamentary elections and implement a Polling Centre (PC) - based Voter List (VL) for the first time in Afghanistan. Following database cleaning and corrections after 2019 voter registration, the Preliminary Voter List currently stands at 9,665,944 (3,334,357 women; 6,331,587 men), an increase of 766,003 voters from 2018 VR data.
Candidate Nomination: The Candidate Nomination (CN) process for the Wolesi Jirga (WJ) elections took place in 33 provinces of Afghanistan [except Ghazni province] from 16 May to 14 June 2018. Under UNESP guidance and support, the IEC published the preliminary list of 2,565 WJ candidates of which 16 percent (418) were women and 84 percent (2,147) were men. This number includes one Sikh candidate (0 women), and 44 Kuchi candidates (8 women). The final list of candidates for the WJ elections reduced from 2,565 to 2,558 candidates (415 women, 16.2%) following the disqualification of seven candidates (three women) by the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC). For the 2019 Presidential elections, 2 of the 20 potential candidates did not submit complete paperwork and were rejected by the IEC, leaving 18 potential presidential candidates for the election. At the end of April 2019, the IEC, with technical and advisory support from the project conducted the ballot lottery to establish the order of the 18 certified presidential candidates on the ballot paper.
Voter turnout at Wolesi Jirga elections: Of the 8,899,941 registered valid voters, a total of 3,660,124 valid votes were cast during election days of 20, 21 and 27 October 2018 of which 37.4 percent (1,369,808) were cast by women. Overall 90 percent of the polling centres used BVV devices in the Wolesi Jirga elections with coverage of 90 percent and above recorded in 19 provinces.
Wolesi Jirga results: As of 30 April 2019, final results are announced for 32 provinces including the Kuchi and Sikh constituencies. A total 206 parliamentary candidates were announced as winners, with women candidates constituting 27 percent (57 women) of the winning candidates. The IEC and ECC, with technical support from the project finalized the 2018 Wolesi Jirga election results, announcing the final results for Kabul on 14 May 2019. Consequently, 239 parliamentary candidates were announced and certified as winners, with women candidates constituting 27 percent (66 women) of the winning candidates.
Electoral Dispute Resolution: The project supported the ECC in the commission’s ability to address electoral irregularities in all phases of the electoral process, to resolve electoral disputes, and to enforce the legal and regulatory requirements for participation in and contestation of the elections. A total 18,577 complaints were submitted from the public, political parties, CSOs and stakeholders throughout the year, with the majority being registered following the WJ election days and publication of preliminary WJ results – all are adjudicated. The ECC also made decisions about 781 appeal cases from the 32 provinces, Sikh and Kuchi constituencies. For the 2019 Presidential elections, the ECC received 18 complaints regarding the voter registration process from Kabul , Parwan , Ghazni , and Samangan , all the complaints were adjudicated with technical support from the project. Five complaints were registered at the ECC in July regarding early campaigning in Kabul  and Balkh  provinces, the project is supporting the investigation and analysis of these complaints.
Participation of women
- The Regulations make special provisions for women, facilitating their engagement as voters and particularly as candidates, easing the regulations for Candidate Nomination.
- In 2018, at least 3,1 million women registered to vote, constituting 34 percent of the total registered voters. Three provinces of Afghanistan (Bamyan, Daikundi and Jawzjan) marked more women than men registrants.
- With 415 women on the final list of Wolesi Jirga candidates, women represented 16 percent (415 of 2,558) of the total candidates. From the 33 provinces and two constituencies, women candidates constitute 27 percent of the selected winning parliamentary candidates (66 out of 239).
- The Commissions for the IEC and ECC that were appointed in March 2019 are headed by women. Two of the seven Commissioners for IEC are women (28%) and one of the five Commissioners for the ECC is a woman.
- 288,708 women (out of 1,209,773 citizens) participated in the 34,451 public outreach campaigns for voter registration processes; women constituted 24 percent of the citizens reached.