The hot debates on electoral reforms including the electoral systems currently is going on amongst different electoral stakeholders right after conducting the 2014 election in Afghanistan.
The discussions have espoused interest in actors with a potential to contributing to the electoral reform agenda, which includes a review of the current Single Non-Transferrable Vote (SNTV) electoral system. As actors on the stage of entrenching democracy, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Afghanistan, together with its partner, the UNDP under the project Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow II, embarked on a capacity development programme for election professionals. The BRIDGE Electoral Systems workshop, was one of a series of such trainings conducted for IEC management and Independent Elections Complaints Commission (IECC) officials from 22-25 and 28 February, 2015, in Kabul, Afghanistan. It is ironic that the first workshop Electoral Systems was conducted almost at the same time, in March 2012.
The team of facilitators were consisted of Shahla Haque the leading facilitator, Tomsie Dlamini, Awalula Rahmand Rodwal and Abdul basir Aziz, delivered a well-packaged programme to participants who clamoured for more similar workshops to strengthen their capacity and understanding in the field of electoral democracy – specifically in electoral systems. As is usual with BRIDGE modules, time is always a factor especially when the target audience takes keen interest in the subject matter. In this case, knowing all there was to know was the main objective of each and every one of the 25 participants. They took interest in all topics, in the main electoral system families, the three significant elements and components of electoral systems, comparisons of electoral systems, advantages and disadvantages of all systems, seat allocations in different systems and designing an electoral system activities. And then big question: ‘Which of these is the best for Afghanistan?’ Without being prescriptive, facilitators’ professional guided and supported debates on this question. This session was left to the last day for participants to deliberate on with very interesting suggestions. Assessing their feedback, they walked away with the understanding that no electoral system is perfect. However, shunning the thought of engaging in the options available was not an option.
The BRIDGE curriculum offered the knowledge participants needed which enlightened their thinking on electoral systems. It was encouraging to note the high level of participation of all throughout the 5-day training. It is hoped that the cadre of election professionals within the IEC and IECC will help promote informed debates and make laudible contributions to imminent changes, to the electoral system.