This training workshop was organized by TAF (The Asia Foundation) and funded by AusAID.
The wars in Afghanistan over the passed three decades have seriously affected the social, economical and political lives of the population. Many political experts and specialists in Afghanistan believe that improvements made to the political situation in Afghanistan will have a crucial role in establishment of peace and democracy in the country. Indeed, it is argued that the presence and establishment of strong political parties is crucial to bringing positive changes to the political sitaution in the country.
There are more than 120 political parties registered in ministry of Justice of Afghanistan, but due to wars and illiteracy there is no strong political party that has influence amongst the people. In fact the political parties usually don’t care or don’t have the capability to build up the capacity of their members.
The BRIDGE team in Afghanistan recognized that; the BRIDGE training programs could be a very useful tool to potentially help build up the capacity and increasing the political awareness of Political Parties members who are one of the main stakeholder in elections.
The first ABRIDGE training program for the Political Parties was conducted in Kabul from 9-13 May 2009. One representative from each political party was invited to attend. In total 24 participants accepted the invitations (6 female and 18 male). The participants were all from different political parties and had different positions within their parties.
Topics were selected carefully by the three BRIDGE fully accredited facilitators. These facilitators have organised similar workshops for the past few years. In 2004-2005 the ABRIDGE booklet published in the two local languages used in Afghanistan.
The participants had no previous experience with any election training programs and were not familiar with most off the selected topics. They were introduced to different electoral systems and actively participated in the practical activities, group discussion, and presentations.
Evaluations showed that all topics covered were interesting for the particpants with the most enjoyable topics including: electoral system families, advantage and disadvantage of systems, seat allocation in PR list, kind of EMBs, designing public outreach programs, the campaigning, voter registration, mock election on polling (used two round system because its using for presidential election in Afghanistan), practical work on counting process, campaigning, Public opinion survey.
Seat allocation in PR list was rated particularly highly as most of the participants were not familiar with this system. While the political parties usually support the PR list in Afghanistan, in reality they were not fully aware of the advantages and disadvantages of this system. In fact, before attending this workshop all the participants thought that the candidate with the most votes wins the seats, but after a clear explanation of the seat allocation in open and closed list they were really shocked and realized which this system is not suitable for our country in the current situation.
The campaigning topic was other interested topic, they were not familiar how to campaign.
The participants enjoyed the workshop and commented on the BRIDGE methodology. They found it an interesting and effective for their skill improvement. At the end of the workshop a participant on behalf of others expressed his appreciation to the Afghan BRIDGE facilitator team, the Australian BRIDGE team together with all other respectful partners and AusAID.
Participants proposed to be conducted more BRIDGE modules for them especially electoral systems, contestants, Public awareness, it has been stressed the political parties leaders should be invited to attend in such kind of workshops because the were sure which the lack of proper management skill and low political knowledge are the mean reason for not having the strong political parties in Afghanistan.
It has been suggested the BRIDGE training programs should not be limited to the capital of the country, political parties members in the provinces are also required to increase there political and election knowledge.
It’s strongly suggested and requested the TAF to conduct the BRIDGE training program for all political parties because the parties in in Afghanistan don’t have the financial capability to organizes these training programs.
Facilitators team was consisted of Afghan national BRIDGE facilitators (Abdul Ghafor Ashiq, Shahla Haque, Rasool Haba, Abdul Zahir Eztrabi, Hamidullah and Zabiullha Barakzai) and International colleague (George Baratashivili).