Assurance on Election Security amid Increased Violence
Afghan officials assured on Saturday that the Afghan forces will be able to provide security for the vast majority of polling stations in the forthcoming presidential elections. The officials who have provided a plan for security arrangements for the upcoming elections to the electoral authorities is ensuring has also said that more than four hundred polling centers would remain closed due to insecurity. The assurances come at a time when the security across the country is constantly deteriorating, and the insurgents have been organizing concerted attacks in the first days of 2014. Given that in wintertime the violence is expected to decline, the sudden rise in violence is a trouble sign of the security situation in the country in a crucial year with two important transitions underway.
The rise in violence is alarming. Unlike the previous years, a significant increase in violence and deterioration of security will mean differently for Afghanistan in 2014. In the past, Afghanistan’s security forces fought the insurgency by direct engagement of those forces in the war against the Taliban or with direct support of the US-led foreign forces. This year, any potential and serious security deterioration could mean disastrous for Afghanistan as it could affect negatively, if not derail, the election process which will be critical for all other processes. A deterioration of security across the country could result to closing of polling stations in many parts of the insecure areas of the South and East of the country.
If the election turnout is low in significant parts of the country, it may, in itself or as an additional factor, contribute to the possible controversies over irregularities and frauds that might mar the election outcome. Afghanistan’s past experience of 2009 elections has proved that any sway from the right path in the election process could derail the whole process. Unlike the previous election, Afghans need to efficiently handle the election process and let it not derailed by factors such as bad security and frauds; otherwise, the prospect for a political crisis is real and genuine given that now the mediation role of the international community is much different and weaker than the previous elections.
Any possible security deterioration might prove much more disastrous than what is predicted now by Afghan officials and a large portion of the Afghan population. The relative optimisms and justifications of the Afghan officials that everything is moving in the right direction do not necessarily mean that the election will go right. Regardless of the somehow mixed perception of the situation ahead of the presidential election, there are potentially spoiler factors that could unexpectedly affect the process.
These factors and the overall situation of the country must be taken seriously by the government and recognized by all stakeholders of the process. Any failure, no matter political, security or of other nature, in the process might result to consequent developments that unfavorably affect the outcome of the elections. As the electoral officials expressed concerns about a possible security failure in the election process, the spate of violence in the beginning of 2014 is not a good sign for the handling of the situation by the security agencies. Given that there is no decline of violence in sight, the Afghan government needs to step up efforts and take comprehensive security measures to ensure that the election will go ahead smoothly.