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District Council Elections Report English .pdf


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Project Design and Direction
Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA)
Report Author
Lucile Martin, Saeed Parto and Avrohom Simons

Editor
Sughra Saadat
Assistant Authors
Mohammad Saber Khyber, Zahra Qasemi, Baryalai Qayoumi and Ehsan Saadat

Fieldwork
TEFA’s provincial coordinators team
Report Design
Zahra Abdullahi

December 2015

2

About TEFA
Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) is a network of 43 civil society
organizations and the largest national independent electoral monitoring organization working to
ensure election processes are transparent and undertaken in a democratic way in compliance
with rules and regulations. It works to build confidence in democracy and strengthening political
participation by conducting advocacy campaigns and civic education programs. It has provided
professional monitoring of the previous rounds of elections and trained thousands of electoral
observers who delivered impartial observation in the past elections. Its findings reports have
been largely welcomed and used as credible sources of information. TEFA’s strategic plans
primarily focus on professional and targeted monitoring with consideration of increased women
and civil society participation and enhancing transparency in democratic processes. Its vision is
to see a sustainable democratic process including transparent and credible election processes
as well as stronger role of civil society organizations in Afghanistan.
For more information see: http://www.tefa.org.af/
Contact: info@tefa.org.af

About APPRO
Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization (APPRO) is an independent social research organization
with a mandate to promote social and policy learning to benefit development and reconstruction efforts
in Afghanistan and other less developed countries through conducting social scientific research,
monitoring and evaluation, and training and mentoring. APPRO is registered with the Ministry of
Economy in Afghanistan as a non-profit non-government organization and headquartered in Kabul,
Afghanistan with offices in Bamyian (center), Mazar-e Sharif (north), Herat (west), Kandahar (south), and
Jalalabad (east). APPRO and its individual researchers have undertaken projects in Central Asia, Pakistan,
India, Africa, China, and Turkey.
For more information see: http://www.appro.org.af/
Contact: mail@appro.org.af

Acknowledgements
The Assessment of awareness, willingness and ability to participate in district council elections a project
of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA) required manifold inputs of TEFA’s Kabul staff
and its partners. The Foundation wishes to offer its sincere gratitude to individuals and organizations
that offered their time and commitment to this study. The study report production was led by Ms.
Lucile Martin, Mr. Saeed Paro and Avrohom Simons from APPRO and Mohammad Saber Khyber, Zahra
Qasemi, Baryalai Qayoumi and Ehsan Saadat.
TEFA thanks its provincial coordinators in Badakhshan, Balkh, Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar for data
collection and many members of Civil Society, government officials, elders and all the individual women
and men who participated in this study and shared their views and insights about the awareness,
willingness and ability for participate in district council elections.

3

Abbreviations
APPRO – Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization
AREU – Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit
ASOP – Afghanistan Social Outreach Program
CSO – Civil Society Organization
DC – District Council
DCC – District Coordination Council
DDA – District Development Assembly
IDLG – Independent Directorate of Local Governance
IEC- Independent Election Commission
MRRD – Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development
SNGP - Sub-National Governance Policy
TEFA – Transparent Election Foundation Afghanistan
UNDP – United Nations Development Program
USIP – United States Institute of Peace

4

Table of Contents
I. Executive Summary ............................................................................................................ 5
Recommendations .........................................................................................................................6
Citizen’s Awareness of District Councils ............................................................................................... 6
Willingness to Participate in District Council Elections ......................................................................... 6
Conditions for Participating in District Council Elections...................................................................... 6

II. Introduction ...................................................................................................................... 8
III. Goal And Objectives ......................................................................................................... 9
IV. Methodology.................................................................................................................. 10
Data Collection Team ................................................................................................................... 10
Sampling ...................................................................................................................................... 10
Tools ............................................................................................................................................ 14
Data Collection and Quality Control .............................................................................................. 14
Limitations and Challenges ........................................................................................................... 14

V. Organization of the Report .............................................................................................. 14
VI. District-Level Governance in Afghanistan – An Overview .............................................. 165
Critique of Existing Structures ..................................................................................................... 176
Constitutional Mandate for District Elections ................................................................................ 17

VII. Findings From Interviews and Focus Group Discussions ................................................ 198
1. Citizens’ Awareness of District Councils ................................................................................... 198
2. Citizens’ Willingness to Participate in Elections........................................................................ 211
3. Conditions for Participation in District Council Elections .......................................................... 232

VIII. Recommendations ..................................................................................................... 287
Citizen’s Awareness of District Councils ........................................................................................... 287
Willingness to Participate in District Council Elections ..................................................................... 298
Conditions for Participating in District Council Elections.................................................................. 298

Appendix: Key Informants and Focus Group Codes ............................................................ 300

5

I. Executive Summary
Elections for District Councils, mandated in the Afghan Constitution of 2004, are under discussion for
2016. District council elections have been systematically deferred since the first plan to hold them
following the development of the Sub-National Governance Policy (SNGP) in 2010. This induces
problems at both the national and sub-national governance levels. Within the National Assembly, one
third of the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders) is to be elected among district council members, according
to the Constitution. The delay of district council elections further implies that there is currently no
authoritative district-level representative body in Afghanistan.
Efforts by the Afghan government, policy makers and donors have been made since 2004 to expand and
improve sub-national governance structures and processes. However, weak rule of law and lack of
coordination between and among funding and administrative bodies have impeded reform processes of
local governance. A multitude of local government bodies have emerged and were added to pre-existing
traditional structures, but their roles, functions and linkages lack clarity. This has paved the ground for
the pervasive inefficiency of local administrations, competition between them, and lack of accountability
in their mandate. At the district level in particular, there are wide disparities in the presence and
attributions of governance bodies, none of which have sufficient powers or independence to hold the
executive to account or to adequately undertake their duties.
There is therefore a pressing need to address the dysfunctions of district governance in Afghanistan.
Authoritative representative bodies are absent at the district level and there is a great deal of confusion
emerging from the heterogeneity of district governance models, with several bodies often concurrently
claiming authority without the powers or the independence to hold the executive accountable. This
represents a significant challenge for good governance in the country and widens the distance between
citizens and the government meant to represent them. While considerable resources and effort have
been invested in the formation of provincial councils, concerted attention to the district level has
remained lacking. The election of district councils can provide citizens with the opportunity to have a
voice in local affairs and how central government money is spent on local services, increase connections
with the government and thus isolate anti-government elements.
This report explores citizen’s awareness of, interest in and demands for district elections in the six
provinces of Balkh, Badakhshan, Nangarhar, Kabul, Herat, and Kandahar. Concerns surrounding security,
impartiality and inclusiveness are explored, along with proposals for a more robust electoral strategy.
Overall, findings across provinces were consistent in terms of awareness, willingness to participate, and
conditions for participating in district council elections. Differences mainly laid in levels of awareness on
district councils and district council elections between provincial centers and outlying districts, with
slightly higher expressions of awareness in the former. Despite a deep disappointment in the way the
2o14 presidential elections were handled, a vast majority of respondents explained they were willing to
vote in the future, and expressed specific interest in district-level elections. Main challenges identified
for voting were primarily linked to the security situation, as well as the eventuality of external pressure
on voters by power holders, mismanagement of elections by the IEC, and specific challenges faced by
women in exercising their right to vote. Concerns about access to voting polls were also more prominent
in the districts than in the provincial centers.

6

Recommendations
Citizen’s Awareness of District Councils
Findings show there is a low degree of understanding of the role and mandate of district councils,
including among government employees and civil society actors. Overall, there is low awareness of how
their functions relate to that of other governance entities such as District Development Assemblies. This
was also true among civil society actors and government employees. Based on this general finding, the
following recommendations may be made:
 Campaigns and awareness-raising sessions should be conducted on district councils, their
mandate as designated in the Sub-National Governance Policy of 2010, and the profile of
candidates.
 Targeted information sessions should be designed for and delivered to civil society organizations
and political parties at the district level.
 Additional advocacy should be directed at district authorities to engage them in communicating
about district councils, their role in district governance and their linkages with district, provincial
and national governance bodies.
 Specific information sessions and workshops need to be designed for women to encourage
them to participate as voters and candidates in district council elections.
Willingness to Participate in District Council Elections
Despite the widespread disappointment about the 2014 presidential elections, there is unanimity about
participating in future elections and voting. Specific interest was also voiced in electing district
representatives. However, concerns were expressed about overall lack of awareness of the public of
what voting entails in terms of rights and responsibilities. Recommendations in this regard include:
 Civic rights awareness, including on rights and duties of citizens and the electoral process,
should be provided to the public. This includes increasing awareness in remote districts,
designing specific modules for illiterate citizens and targeting women.
 The importance of district council elections for local representation should be clearly explained
to the public, including specific awareness sessions designed for illiterate persons.
 To reach a higher number of citizens, awareness should be given through media, but also using
civil society networks, university networks, as well as mosques and ulema, tribal shuras and
schools.
 The importance of women’s vote should be highlighted in all awareness-raising campaigns on
elections, including through gender-sensitive campaigns targeted at men.
 Provide and disseminate information about the profiles of district council candidates and their
electoral programs.
Conditions for Participating in District Council Elections
The interest displayed by many respondents in participating as voters in district council elections, and
for some key informants as mobilizers, was somewhat mitigated by long lists of foreseen challenges and
sets of conditions for the electoral process to go smoothly. There was unanimity about security and
personal safety of citizens was a key condition for citizens’ participation in elections. Access to polling
stations and pressure from power holders were also repeatedly mentioned as a deterrent for voting.
Women were reported to face specific challenges related to security, lack of awareness, patriarchal
norms and proxy voting. There are also serious concerns about process management of voting and there
is little trust in the Electoral Commission’s ability to manage the process for district council elections. To

7

address the conditions for participation as expressed by those engaged, the following recommendations
may be made:
 The role and duty of the government in organizing and securing the conditions for free and fair
elections should be widely disseminated. This could include explaining avenues for citizens to
make complaints on irregularities and fraudulent practices.
 Security measures taken by district authorities on the days of the election need to be
disseminated to the wider public including specific information sessions for women.
 Specific awareness should be provided to the public on the electoral reform process, the role of
the IEC in general and observers in particular.
 Civil society organizations should be actively engaged to curb and monitor fraudulent practices,
and communicate about it to the public.
 Public awareness campaigns reaching out to women and traditional elements of society should
be conducted, including in remote districts.
 The location of voting stations should be clearly explained and marked for the public, and for
women in particular.

8

II. Introduction
The Afghan Constitution of 2004 introduces six types of direct elections: presidential, parliamentary,
provincial council, district council, village council and municipal elections.1 The first presidential election
was held in 2004, followed by the first parliamentary and provincial council elections in 2005. Two more
rounds of presidential, parliamentary and provincial council elections were held in 2009/2010 and 2014.
Municipal, district and village council elections, however, have not yet taken place.
The absence of district councils induces problems at both the national and sub-national governance
levels. Within the National Assembly, one third of the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders) is to be elected
among district council members.2 The systematic deferral of district council elections since the first plan
to hold them in 2010 further implies that there is currently no authoritative district-level representative
body in Afghanistan.
The Sub-National Governance Policy (SNGP) of 2010 allots a number of key governance functions to
district councils, mirroring those of the provincial councils. These notably include a role of oversight and
monitoring of appointed government district administrations allotted to district councils, holding the
District Governor’s office and district line departments accountable, approving major decisions of
district administration, enforcing minimum service delivery standards, and consulting with district
residents to bring their concerns to the attention of higher-level political entities.3 Though this provides
a basis for introducing positive change in district governance, initiatives need to be taken to encourage
Afghan institutions to take on the responsibility of drafting legislative provisions to clearly define the
mandate of district councils, overcome administrative challenges such as the definition of district
boundaries, and set up a clear timeline for elections. In the absence of effective legislation following up
on the SNGP and of political will to effectively hold district council elections, the key governance
functions of district councils have remained unfulfilled.4
Substantial efforts by the Afghan government, policy makers and donors have been made since 2004 to
expand and improve sub-national governance structures and processes. However, weak rule of law and
lack of coordination between and among funding and administrative bodies have impeded reform
processes of local governance. A multitude of local government bodies have emerged and were added
to pre-existing traditional structures, but their roles, functions and linkages lack clarity.5 This has paved
the ground for the pervasive inefficiency of local administrations, competition between them, and lack
of accountability in their mandate. At the district level in particular, there are wide disparities in the
presence and attributions of governance bodies, none of which have sufficient powers or independence
to hold the executive to account or to adequately undertake their duties.6
There is therefore a pressing need to address the dysfunctions of district governance in Afghanistan.
Authoritative representative bodies are absent at the district level and there is a great deal of confusion
emerging from the heterogeneity of district governance models, with several bodies often concurrently
claiming authority without the powers or the independence to hold the executive accountable. This
represents a significant challenge for good governance in the country and widens the distance between
citizens and the government meant to represent them. While considerable resources and effort have
1

Constitution of Afghanistan (2004): art. 61, 83, 138, 140, 141
Constitution of Afghanistan (2004): art. 83
3
Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), “Sub-National Governance Policy (2010), available on
http://jawzjan.gov.af/Content/Media/Documents/SNGP-English-Afghanistan307201192625245553325325.pdf.
4
ibid.
5
LISTER S. (2005)
6
NIJAT A. (2014)
2

9


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