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Why Afghans are pushing for democratic elections soon

Security has been the main focus in Afghanistan, but many say preparations for democratic elections are equally important if the country is to succeed after 2014.

By Halima KazemCorrespondent / August 22, 2012

An Afghan security man stands guard on the roof of a damaged house following a gun battle between militants and Afghan security forces on the outskirts of Kabul on Aug. 2. Afghanistan has two transitions scheduled for 2014, and both will determine the fate of the country: a security transition that will transfer the country’s security from US and NATO forces to Afghan forces, and a political transition that will elect a new president.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP

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Kabul, Afghanistan

As election debates heat up in the US, another election halfway around the world in Afghanistan is not picking up the steam that may be needed to keep the county from backpedaling into civil war, say some Afghans.

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Afghanistan has two transitions scheduled for 2014, and both will determine the fate of the country: a security transition that will transfer the country’s security from US and NATO forces to Afghan forces, and a political transition that will elect a new president. And though much has been discussed about the look and feel of the security transition, many within Afghanistan are worried that if the way is not paved for democratic elections, security in the end may not matter.

“We don’t see the movement right now on preparations for the elections. These early stages are critical for ensuring the processes work later on and the Afghan people elect a president that will lead the country through a critical transition,” says Ahmad Nader Nadery, chairman of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, an election observer organization.

“In order to have a lasting impact, we need to prepare the groundwork for free and fair elections right now. There are groups inside and outside of the Afghan government trying to cling to power and sabotage the 2014 elections,” says Taj Ayubi, a top-level adviser on international relations to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Although Mr. Ayubi wouldn’t name anyone specifically, he said that there is a push by some groups to isolate Afghanistan from the international community.

“These Afghans are the same ones that are involved in high-level corruption schemes and part of the drug mafias. They have a lot to lose and are using the rhetoric of nationalism and sovereignty as an excuse to push the international community away from monitoring and being involved in the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections,” Ayubi says.

Ayubi, Mr. Nadery, and leaders of opposition political parties in Afghanistan are calling for increased monitoring by Afghan and international organizations starting now, in the early stages of the election process.

These processes include setting the election date, approving a new electoral law, and establishing mechanisms to monitor campaign finance contributions and interference of government officials in the elections.

“If the processes around the elections are not prioritized immediately, the chaos can lead to transnational terrorist groups surfacing in Afghanistan and trying to take over the government, a state of emergency being declared, or civil war breaking out,” Ayubi says.

Major point of contention

President Karzai's term expires in May 2014, and the constitution says elections must be held 30 to 60 days before an incumbent leaves office.  But setting the date has been a major point of contention in the election process.

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