2014 marks a decisive political moment in the tortuous history of this worn-ravaged country, which is slated to hold Presidential and Provincial Council elections on April 5, 2014.
So far, preparations for the April 2014 polls have been plagued with difficulties and growing concerns over the ability of the Afghan state bodies to guarantee a fair and transparent electoral process.
In particular, the candidacy by individuals implicated in serious human rights abuses continue to raise questions about the legitimacy of vetting processes, thus increasing cynicism among potential voters.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), candidates in the presidential race include “former military and militia commanders implicated in serious rights abuses, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.”
Given the presence of such disputable candidates accused of heinous crimes, many Afghans still wonder whether their country will ever have a future as a rights-respecting country.
While most Afghans still claim accountability for the past and present crimes committed by those very same people who are now running for the presidency, doubts also persist that Karzai, who won the re-election in 2009 in a vote marked by allegations of fraud, will finally step down as required by the constitution. The Afghan president does not seem to be willing to abandon his office after being in power for a decade, and many believe that Karzai will in fact try to find a way to remain in control by facilitating the victory of a key ally and therefore, by interfering directly in the electoral process. To further fuel these speculations is the fact that Karzai has delayed or opposed several electoral reforms, including the electronic voter ID card, as well as failed to appoint new members of the National Election Commission accused of favouritism in the last polls.
In this political scenario, some democratic voices are raising their concerns and expressing their outrage regarding the legitimacy of the upcoming presidential polls. Among these is The Solidarity Party of Afghanistan (SPA), Hambastagi, a young democratic party represented by members of the civil society who strongly condemn warlordism and the foreign occupation of Afghanistan and advocate justice, human rights, and secularism.
Born in 2004, today’s the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan counts more than 30.000 registered members from across the country’s provinces and rural areas where the party is particularly active: through local provincial representatives, the SPA pursues a political and social agenda of inclusion, by promoting literacy programs as well as the active engagement of the population in the process of the country’s reconstruction.
The SPA firmly opposes the Afghan government and its corrupted political establishment formed by fundamentalists, criminals and warlords and strongly condemns the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan. The Solidarity Party demands justice for the thousands of civilians victim of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan since the communist era and claims the deposition of “warlords” who hold key positions in the Afghan government.
The SPA intends to offer a ‘third way’ to all those seeking justice and a democratic alternative to the occupying forces, as well as to the fundamentalists in power. Three basic principles form the solid foundations of this young party: secularism, women’s rights and democracy.
Despite the continuous death threats and intimidations faced by its leaders, testifying the widespread lack of freedom of expression in the country, the SPA’s members courageously continue their struggle against the corrupted government and its international backers.
Committed to pave the way for a democratic future for their people, these young politicians put their life at risk on a daily basis to make their voice – and that of millions of Afghans – heard. SPA political activity includes public protests which are attended by thousands of members of the civil society, including women, against the Karzai’s government and the US-Nato occupation of Afghanistan. Several members of the party have been arrested during the course of these protests and subsequently released with the help of international campaigns.
In a recent interview with SPA’s key representatives, we have asked a leading member of Hambastagi (SPA), Hafiz Rasikh, to delineate the party’s political position with regards to the upcoming vote in order to gain closer insight into the present political scenario of the country.
Q: How would you describe the political atmosphere, two months before the vote?
A: These days everyone is talking about the importance of these elections. This is because public opinion is shaped by and based on misleadingpolitical propaganda fuelled by the national and international state-controlled media. The present political debate has only one goal, and that is, to make people believe that their vote still matters and is still decisive for the future of the country. This demagogic propaganda aims to involve Afghans in this bustling electoral campaign, as if the future of their country actually depended on choices that they could make. The truth is that, in the past five years, people’s expectations have not been met and this has led to widespread disappointment and scepticism in the country’s political affairs.
Q: How is the public opinion responding to the upcoming elections?
A: People have not lost interest in democracy per se, in fact, Afghans are thirsty for democracy. They still regard elections as a fundamental means of expression for every democratic system, but this, unfortunately, is not the case in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, elections are just a mockery.
Today our country is occupied by the US-Nato forces and governed by a puppet regime formed by corrupted criminals: there’s no sign of democracy in Afghanistan.
In the last decade, our country has plunged into a downwards spiral of misery: deteriorating security, alongside an overall declining international interest in the war in Afghanistan have created mounting fears among Afghans for the future of their country and forced many of them to flee their home. The right to freedom of expression and association is increasingly under threat, as are women’s rights which are constantly hindered by misogynistic figures; war crimes and crimes against humanity continue to be committed by those who now hold key positions in the government; corruption is rampant, unemployment is at its highest. All these factors, in addition to the lack of access to education and widespread poverty, continue to oppress our people who are already ravaged by decades of conflicts.
We believe that without justice there cannot be any democracy. Afghans consider justice a necessary condition for peace, yet today they are still awaiting accountability for the human rights violations and war crimes committed by the same people that now rule the country. Under such circumstances, any election is pointless and unlawful. In fact, these upcoming presidential polls are a shame for the Afghan people. The word ‘democracy’, in the present Afghan context, is a mere instrument of propaganda of US and of the country’s Afghan puppets.
Q: Will the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan boycott the upcoming Presidential and Provincial Council elections?
A: We regard elections as one of the fundamental pillars of democracy, however, we cannot forget the popular saying ‘It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes’, which is particularly true in Afghanistan. If our vote really counted, then those in power would never allow us to cast our ballots. The SPA has boycotted the presidential elections in the past since we believe that in Afghanistan no president can be elected without the White House’s approval, whereas we have never boycotted the provincial elections which are not as easily maneuverable by the central government and its international backers, and that’s mainly because the territory at stake is too wide to be controlled. Therefore, we don’t want to miss this opportunity.
The SPA has decided not to publicly support any specific provincial candidate, however, in partnership with our local representatives and supporters located in all provinces, we have identified some potential provincial candidates to support. Through them we want to gain access to different areas of the country.
Q:Is any SPA’s member running in the Provincial Council elections?
A: Officially none of SPA’s members will be running in these upcoming polls, however, indirectly, we are supporting some Provincial Council candidates who are not corrupted and whose hands are not blood-stained, unlike the vast majority of politicians in our country. We hope that one day our people will be administered by these political exceptions.
Q: So the SPA is not planning to formally ally with any specific candidate or political party?
A: At present, we are not planning to ally with any particular candidate, although we did receive many requests from registered candidates seeking our support – some of these are on the list for the presidency. This is mainly due to our strong presence within the Afghan political scene as well as to our wide network of supporters. Nonetheless, we have strictly rejected all requests since we believe that no candidate can become president of this country without having to compromise with local lackeys, as well as with US imperialist forces and their allies – which we have always strongly condemned. In fact, almost all current presidential candidates have already been ‘approved’ by the CIA, MI6, ISI, Vavek and other foreign intelligence services.
Q: Will the SPA’s boycott of the Presidential vote be public?
A: In the past we have boycotted the presidential elections in the attempt to expose the shameful electoral machine in Afghanistan, which is financed by huge sums of money poured in by international stakeholders. To give you an example: the Afghan government has recently announced that it will provide three armoured vehicles and thirty-five armed security guards to each presidential candidate. So, if you consider that each armoured vehicle costs USD 100.000 and the thirty-five security guards provided for a period of six months to each candidate cost around USD 633.600, the overall cost reaches USD 4 million. It’s a lot of money. A big waste of money. Especially in a country like Afghanistan, where millions of people live in extreme poverty and mothers have to sell their own child for AFN 2.000 (around USD 40) in order to feed the rest of the family.
We believe that this large amount of money should be used in a more constructive way, that is, in the best interest of our country, for example by feeding our people or funding infrastructural projects such as the building of hydroelectric dams and highways, by improving our agricultural sector or promoting the tourist industry, etc.
In this context, the Party’s position has been made public on several articles published on our website and monthly publications, as well as in several public meetings and political debates broadcasted on the radio and TV channels.
Q: Does the SPA have any representatives in each province who might play a key role for the party?
A: Yes, definitely. Our main goal is to join forces with all the democratic and progressive voices of Afghanistan. We are aware that this may involve having to deal with differences in opinion, however, we believe that any divergences can be overcome by engaging in a fair confrontation. What matters most to us is the selection of our potential allies, which follows very strict criteria: first of all, they must not hold any criminal background; secondly, they must be willing to take a clear and firm stance against warlords and criminals who have dominated the political scene of our country in the last three decades; thirdly, they must not be involved in any case of corruption or embezzlement; they must advocate human rights and gender equality; they should believe in secularism and lastly, recognise Afghanistan as a country occupied by the US forces and their allies. At the same time, we believe that our union shouldn’t be based only behind the round tables in cosy rooms but we should go into practical ground and prove our honesty, because our country is full of bitter and useless unions.
Q: Is there any candidate who best represents the SPA’s ideas? For instance, Bashardost in the Presidential list, or Belquis Roshan for the Senate?
A: We have great respect for people like Bashardost, Roshan and Malalai Joya. Mr. Bashardost, for instance, is a reputable and charismatic man who gained the respect of our people with his honest conduct, however, we believe that he is not making the most out of his power and mostly believes in individual struggle and not organised struggle by political parties and organisations. At the time, he was the only candidate to receive a considerable number of votes without having to get his hands dirty with corrupted figures or use his power in illicit ways. Eventually, he did not win the presidential elections and that’s because the US did not approve of him. Even in the case of a victory, he would have been surrounded by many other criminals who would have prevented him from pursuing his political agenda.
In other words, we believe he has wasted his time which he could have used in other, more fruitful, ways. Eventually, Bashardost has recently stated that this year he will not run for presidency since he too has realised that every potential candidate has to kiss the hands of Obama – and he is not willing to do so.
Q: What are the SPA’s expectations regarding the outcome of these polls?
A: If the 2009 elections were marred by large-scale fraud, violence, we have no reason to believe this year’s vote will be any different. As Patrick Cockburn recently wrote on The Independent, all the election monitoring institutions have been taken over by and are now under the thumb of the government.In this context, the 2014 polls in Afghanistan are likely to be worse than anything seen before, given the level of corruption that dominates the political establishment.
One thing is clear to us: these upcoming presidential elections will not bring any positive change for the country, that is, for the Afghan people. The future president will be another puppet maneuvered by the White House, and will therefore continue to follow the anti-nationalist politics of his predecessor Karzai. Afghans people are gradually gaining more political awareness and rejecting this fascist regime. Afghans seek justice and they are determined to achieve it. This is a great hope for us. However, this process will require some time. In the meantime, we are determined to continue our struggle and raise our voice until this will be heard.