Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan

Explaining Elections

The Constitution and Electoral Law mandates the IEC to implement the following types of election in Afghanistan:

  • Presidential Elections
  • Parliamentary Elections
  • Provincial Council Elections
  • District Council Elections
  • Mayoral Elections
  • Municipal Elections
  • Village Council Elections

The IEC has performed three types of the elections to date:

Presidential Election

Afghanistan ascribes to the presidential political system, whereby the head of state is a president directly elected by the people of the state. Under this system, the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is mandated to implement the 2004 Constitution and act in the interests of the people.

The President is responsible for, inter alia, acting as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, convening the loya jirga, appointing ministers and other high-level officials in conjunction with the Parliament, endorsing laws and judicial decrees, establishing commissions, proclaiming and terminating states of emergency and calling referendums.

Two vice presidents, the first and second, succeed the President in the case of absence, resignation, or death.

On 9 October 2004, more than eight million registered voters directly elected Hamid Karzai as the President of Afghanistan by an absolute majority. Approximately 4,900 polling centers with 22,000 polling stations were operational in all districts of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Out-of-country voting took place with 2,800 polling stations in Iran and Pakistan. Counting centers were located in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Kunduz, Bamyan, Herat, and Gardez.

Election

After receiving over 50% of votes in free, general, and secret balloting, the office of the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is held for five years. Presidential candidates must meet a number of minimum criteria, including being a citizen of Afghanistan, being over the age of 40 years, and not having been convicted of war crimes, or criminal acts.

If no candidate receives over 50% of votes after the first round of elections completed and results announced, a second round of elections must be held within two weeks. Only the two candidates who receive the most votes are allowed to stand in the second round.

According to the 2004 Constitution, the Presidential term expires on the 22 May of the fifth year after elections, with new elections being held between thirty and sixty days prior to the end of term.

Should the President resign or be deemed unfit to carry out the duties of the office, the First Vice President acts as Interim President until an election can be held. According to the Constitution, an election must be held within three months.

During that time, the First Vice President cannot amend the Constitution, dismiss ministers, or call a referendum. Additionally, Vice Presidents are required to nominate themselves as presidential candidates in the election.

Parliamentary Election

The National Assembly, also known as Parliament, consists of two houses: the Lower House, known as the House of People or Wolesi Jirga; and the Upper House, known as the House of Elders or Meshrano Jirga.

The Wolesi Jirga consists of 249 seats distributed according to provincial population estimates, with at least two seats per province.

The National Assembly can, inter alia, ratify, modify, or abrogate laws, approve programs, approve the government’s budget, change ministries, or ratify treaties. The Wolesi Jirga can further move for a vote of no confidence against a minister, approve or reject appointments made by the President, appoint commissions to investigate the actions of the government.

The first National Assembly elections were held simultaneously with Provincial Council elections in September 2005. Because District Council elections were postponed, two representatives from each Provincial Council were elected to the Meshrano Jirga in order to maintain the balance between indirectly elected members and presidential appointees.

Election

Citizens of Afghanistan who have been citizens for at least ten years may nominate themselves as candidates, provided they have not been convicted of crimes against humanity, a crime, or have been deprived of their civil liberties by a court. All candidates must be over 25 years of age in case of the Wolesi Jirga and 35 in case of the Meshrano Jirga.

The 2004 Constitution and the 2010 Electoral Law include provisions which guarantee the representation of women in the Wolesi Jirga and in Provincial Councils. If female candidates are well supported in their constituency, more women could be elected to these institutions.

The term of the Wolesi Jirga concludes on the fifth year after elected. Elections must be held between thirty and sixty days prior to the expiration of the term.

The terms of the Meshrano Jirga does not have an end date. Rather, the term of its members depend on whether they are elected by provincial or district councils, or are appointed by the President.

Provincial Council Election

Each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces hosts a Provincial Council, which is directly elected by the voters of that province. According to the 2004 Constitution, the Provincial Council is mandated to “participate in attainment of the development objectives of the state and improvement of the affairs of the province.

Provincial Councils advise and work closely with the provincial administration, the head of which, the Governor, is appointed by the President. They are obliged to elect by majority, from amongst their own elected members, one person to represent the province in the Meshrano Jirga for a term of four years.

In 2005, 3,025 candidates, including 247 women, contested the elections for 420 Provincial Council seats.

Election

The first Provincial Council elections were held simultaneously with National Assembly elections in September 2005. Provincial Council elections are held every four years by residents of the province. Like the Presidential and Wolesi Jirga elections, Provincial Councils are elected by fair, general, secret, direct elections.

The number of seats in a Provincial Council is determined by the province’s population. Each Provincial Council is composed of between 7 and 31 seats

Fewer than 500,000 inhabitants 7 members
500,000 – 1,000,000 inhabitants 13 members
1,000,000 – 2,000,000 inhabitants 19 members
2,000,000 – 3,000,000 inhabitants 25 members
More than 3,000,000 inhabitants 31 members

At least one quarter of seats in each Provincial Council are reserved for female candidates. Women compete equally with men, but if not enough women win the top seats, the last seats in each Provincial Council will be allocated to female candidates to ensure that women hold the number of seats reserved for them by law.