Provincial Reconstruction Teams walk a fine line when dealing with the subject of elections during our work. We are not allowed to engage in any activity that favors any one candidate or party, but we are charged with working to motivate the population to participate in the process. (We can tell ‘em how vote … just not WHO to vote for.)
This is the second time the country will have presidential elections. (They did have parliamentary elections in 2005.) With the war effort underway, the world is watching. Specifically, they want to know if things will be violent or if things will go peacefully. (According to a story on The Guardian, The Taliban has threatened to disrupt polling day.) Believe me, no one is concerned more about violence than the coalition forces currently serving in Afghanistan.
The public may think that with so much military might in the country, the elections should go off pretty smoothly and safely. But it’s important to remember that the coalition is not allowed to have too heavy of a hand in the election process. The goal is for the process to be administered by Afghans, hopefully providing more legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people (and the rest of the world.)
That’s the challenge we face. We have to get Afghan people to understand that amidst their struggle to eat, work, live and learn in a safe environment, they need to participate in government. It’s a tough task, because I know it’s hard to focus on anything when your stomach’s growling.