Electoral System

Presidential Election

Afghanistan, having a presidential form of government, elects its President.  The President is the head of state elected by receiving more than fifty percent (50%) of votes cast by voters in elections. The president is also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.  The President is tasked in implementing the 2004 Constitution and should act based on the interests of the Afghan people. He/she also convenes the loya jirga (grand assembly), appoints ministers and other high-level officials in conjunction with the Parliament, endorses laws and judicial decrees, establishes commissions, proclaims and terminates states of emergency, and calls for referendums. Two vice presidents, the first and second, succeed the President in the case of absence, resignation, or death. (http://www.iec.org.af)

The electoral system that was adopted for the first Presidential Election held in the year 2004 is based on a two-round system. Under a two-round system, the voter votes for one candidate. If no candidate receives over 50% of votes after the first round of elections completed and results announced, a second round of elections must be held within two weeks. Only the two candidates who receive the most votes are allowed to stand in the second round. The two-round system was chosen as the electoral system for Afghanistan in 2004 due to two main reasons: Firstly it is a very simple electoral system and was best suited for Afghanistan due to lack of exposure to elections for a long time coupled with high levels of illiteracy. Secondly, the people of Afghanistan generally have a sense of distrust for political parties due to their role played during the invasion of the country by Soviet Union. The two-round system does not facilitate the role for political parties but focuses more on candidates. (ANFREL Mission Report 2009)

After receiving over 50% of votes in free, general, and secret balloting, the office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is held for five years. Presidential candidates must meet a number of minimum criteria, including being a citizen of Afghanistan, being over the age of 40 years old, and not having been convicted of war crimes, or criminal acts. If no candidate receives over 50% of votes after the first round of elections completed and results announced, a second round of elections must be held within two weeks. Only the two candidates who receive the most votes are allowed to stand in the second round.

According to the 2004 Constitution, the Presidential term expires on the 22 May of the fifth year after elections, with new elections being held between thirty and sixty days prior to the end of term.

Should the President resign or be deemed unfit to carry out the duties of the office, the First Vice President acts as Interim President until an election can be held. According to the Constitution, an election must be held within three months.

During that time, the First Vice President cannot amend the Constitution, dismiss ministers, or call a referendum. Additionally, Vice Presidents are required to nominate themselves as presidential candidates in the election. (http://www.iec.org.af)

Parliamentary Elections

The National Assembly of Afghanistan forms the highest legislative organ of the nation. It is made up of two houses: the Lower House known as the House of People or Wolesi Jirga; and the Upper House, known as House of Elders or Meshrano Jirga.

The National Assembly ratifies, amends, and repeals laws. It also approves government programs and budget, changes ministries, and ratifies treaties.

The Wolesi Jirga consists of 249 seats distributed according to provincial population estimates, with at least two seats per province. Members of the lower house are elected by Single Non-transferable Vote (SNTV). The lower house is primarily tasked to draft and ratify laws.  The Wolesi Jirga can also move for a vote of no confidence against a minister, approve or reject appointments made by the President, appoint commissions to investigate the actions of the government.

Citizens of Afghanistan who have been citizens for at least ten years may nominate themselves as candidates, provided they have not been convicted of crimes against humanity, a crime, or have been deprived of their civil liberties by a court. All candidates must be over 25 years of age in case of the Wolesi Jirga and 35 in case of the Meshrano Jirga. (http://www.iec.org.af)

The 2004 Constitution and the 2010 Electoral Law include provisions which guarantee the representation of women in the Wolesi Jirga and in Provincial Councils. If female candidates are well supported in their constituency, more women could be elected to these institutions.

The term of the Wolesi Jirga concludes on the fifth year after elected. Elections must be held between thirty and sixty days prior to the expiration of the term.  (http://www.iec.org.af)

The Meshrano Jirga is composed of 102 members, 34 are elected by district councils (one per province) for a three-year term, 34 by provincial councils (one per province) for a four-year term, and 34 are nominated by the president for a five-year term.  The House of elders primarily has an advisory role and it has certain veto powers.

Provincial Council Elections

In the Provincial Council, voters of that province directly elect its members. The provincial council is mandated to participate in the attainment of the development objectives of the state and in the improvement of the affairs of the province. They are obliged to elect by majority, from amongst their own elected members, one person to represent the province in the Meshrano Jirga for a term of four years.

Provincial Council elections are held every four years by residents of the province. Like the Presidential and Wolesi Jirga elections, Provincial Councils are elected by fair, general, secret, direct elections.

Each Provincial Council is composed of between 7 and 31 seats. IEC details the following number of members based on the number of population:

Fewer than 500,000 inhabitants

7 members

500,000 – 1,000,000 inhabitants

13 members

1,000,000 – 2,000,000 inhabitants

19 members

2,000,000 – 3,000,000 inhabitants

25 members

More than 3,000,000 inhabitants

31 members

At least one quarter of seats in each Provincial Council are reserved for female candidates. Women compete equally with men, but if not enough women win the top seats, the last seats in each Provincial Council will be allocated to female candidates to ensure that women hold the number of seats reserved for them by law. (http://iec.org.af)

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