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. The UNESP is implemented by 111 staff comprising 43 international advisors and specialists and 68 national staff.
What has been accomplished so far? (as of 30 September 2019)
Voter Registration: In 2018, at least 8,899,941 people 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. In 2019, following voter registration top-up across 33 provinces and voter registration in Ghazni, 9,665,745 people (3,334,230 women and 6,331,534 men) registered to vote.
Candidate Nomination: In 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 (3 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 (all men) on the ballot paper.
Voter turnout at 2018 Parliamentary and 2019 Presidential elections: In 2018, of the 8,899,941 registered 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. In 2019, of the 9,665,745 registered voters, preliminary reports from the IEC indicated approximately 2,695,890 people cast their vote at 4,684 polling centres across the country.
2018 Wolesi Jirga results: As of 30 April 2019, final results are announced for 32 provinces including the Kuchi and Sikh constituencies. Thereafter, 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: In 2018, 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 were also adjudicated. By 30 September, 79 of the 124 complaints registered during the campaign period had been adjudicated and 4,505 election day related complaints [3,887 registered in PECCs and 618 registered in ECC HQ] were yet to be adjudicated.
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, 415 (16.2%) of the 2,558 Parliamentary candidates were women.
- 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.
- In 2018, from the 33 provinces and two constituencies, women candidates constituted 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.
- Public outreach: In the 2019 voter registration exercise, 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. In addition, preliminary figures show that up until 27 September, 897 Civic Educators (240 women; 27%) had conducted 48,126 face to face public outreach meetings with 1,244,716 citizens (395,566 women and 849,150 men).
- Data from the IEC Call Centre shows that since June 2018, 14 percent (47,857 of the 342,732) of the callers were women. They asked questions related to the various phases of the electoral cycle, the EMBs and the Election Law.