AIBAK (Pajhwok): The number of people who took part in last month’s presidential election was 48 percent less than those voted in last year’s parliamentary election in northern Samangan province.
The presidential election was held on September 28 and parliamentary election was conducted in October 2018. Results of the presidential election are yet to be announced.
Mohammad Alam Nawabi, public awareness in charge at the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Samangan, told Pajhwok Afghan News that a total of 39,395 people participated in the presidential election in the province.
He said 20,875 of the voters were men and 18,520 were women. He said a total of 75,538 people including 36,034 of them women and 39,504 men had participated in the parliamentary election in the province.
The number of women participants was higher in Aibak, the provincial capital, in both the elections compared to their participation in districts, he added.
The figures showed men’s turnout in the presidential election was 38 percent down and women’s 58 percent down compared to the Wolesi Jirga or lower house elections.
Different sources say insecurity and lack of public awareness about the importance of election affected public participation in the election.
But mandatory women’s photo in presidential election was among reasons that discouraged females to exercise their right to enfranchise.
In previous elections, women’s photo was optional while it became mandatory in the September presidential election.
Maria, an election worker at women’s polling station in Shahr-i-Qadim Aibak High School, told Pajhwok Afghan News: “Only 80 women voted in the polling station where I worked. Eight women who refused their photo returned without casting their votes.”
These figures show that 10 percent of women did not vote due to mandatory photo in Samangan.
However, some people believe that other factors also contributed to women’s low turnout in the presidential election.
Nadira Naibi, a women’s rights activist in Samangan, said that besides insecurity, militant threats and presence of illegal armed men in some areas, patriarchy, social and cultural barriers also played a role in reducing women’s participation in the election.
The Taliban had warned people not to participate in the election, declaring polling sites as their military targets.
Naibi said, “Election is the soul of a democratic system. All people regardless of their gender or social position have equal right to decide, the Afghan women should have participated widely for playing their role in the society and exercising their political rights.” She hoped women in future elections would participate in higher numbers.
Nahida Azizi, who cast her vote in a polling station in Aibak city, said that lack of awareness among women in remote areas of the province was one of the main reasons of low women turnout in election.
However, Mohammad Alam Nawabi, public awareness in charge at the provincial IEC, said they had provided people with awareness about the election in areas under the government control.
Samangan is one of the country’s partially stable provinces.
Nahida Azizi believed that besides security problems, negative traditions also restricted women from going outside their homes.
“Even if women were allowed to vote, they were asked to vote for a candidate of their husband choice,” she said.
The IEC did not announce the exact number of voters who participated in the September presidential election, but the commission had earlier said that around 2.6 million people voted at 4,384 polling stations across the country.
According to Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, the IEC spokesman, 4.2 million people with 33 percent of them women participated in the parliamentary election in 2018.