March 2, 2017
Holding timely, credible, and transparent parliamentary elections is an essential step along Afghanistan’s path to greater stability, security, and prosperity. I am encouraged to see momentum building toward bringing Afghans back to polling stations and the ballot box to choose their representatives. My colleagues at the U.S. Embassy and I will work tirelessly with the recently appointed Independent Electoral Commission and our friends and partners throughout Afghanistan’s government, and with international partners, to achieve this vital goal for the Afghan people.
Building on lessons from past experience will be essential for this important project to succeed. In 2014, despite threats of violence, courageous and patriotic Afghans turned out in historic numbers to cast ballots in presidential and provincial council elections. And while we all know there were significant procedural flaws in 2014, Afghanistan now has a historic opportunity to do things better by ensuring that the Afghan people are able to elect their Parliamentary representatives in well-run, free, and credible elections. President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah must work hand-in-hand to coalesce all of Afghanistan’s political leaders, in government and in the opposition parties, to ensure a competitive electoral process that gives voice to every Afghan.
Afghanistan’s leaders are already paving the way for successful elections. I commend the National Unity Government’s commitment to fighting corruption, promoting the rule of law, and advancing good governance. While Afghanistan’s young democracy is imperfect, and suffers from growing pains, it has come a long way. A key factor in this democratic evolution is to see the implementation of electoral reforms that make the process more transparent and reduces the opportunity for rampant fraud. By committing to a fair and open process, Afghanistan’s leaders will contribute to an outcome that is widely accepted by Afghans and that strengthens the unity of the country and its democratic future.
The United States has and will continue to proudly support Afghanistan’s electoral and security institutions. But make no mistake, this is Afghanistan’s moment. Parliamentary elections must be Afghan-led from start to finish. The Afghan people will plan and prepare for this historic vote. And while the United States and our international partners can provide guidance and support, it is incumbent that the National Unity Government and the two elections commissions appoint competent and credible staff to manage the elections process. The elections will succeed not because of international aid or encouragement, but ultimately as a result of Afghanistan’s leaders having the wisdom and vision to commit to a fair process, and above all because of the Afghan people’s tenacious commitment to participate in this democratic process.