“Good government starts with good people.” - Democratization

Interview by: Neelab Hakim

Afghan parliamentary election is on its way on 18th September 2010. More than 2500 individuals are running for parliamentary election all over Afghanistan among them 664 candidates belong to Kabul with more than 100 female candidates.
As mentioned in new Afghan electoral law, candidates for the National Assembly shall have the following qualifications:
1. is an Afghan national or has obtained the nationality of Afghanistan at least 10 years prior to the candidate registration or election date.
2. has not been convicted of crimes against humanity, crimes or deprived of civil rights by order of a court.
3. the candidates for the Wolesi Jirga (lower house) and Meshrano Jirga (upper house) must have completed age 25 and 35 respectively on the candidate registration or election date.
4. has been registered on the voters’ list by the Commission.

Sona Sahar one of the current parliamentary candidates, is born in Kabul. She has taken her baccalaureate from Malalai high school in Kabul and has diploma in Journalism from one of Kabul private institutes.
Sona Sahar is currently studying political science. She has worked for six years as a journalist in national and international organizations in Kabul and other provinces of Afghanistan. Sona Sahar is a parliamentary candidate from Kabul. 

1.    What is the reason that why  you are running for the parliamentary election?
Sona Sahar: I have been a journalist from profession and have been working in this field since last seven years. I have been in direct contact with people which proved to be so efficient to understand what is going on in social life of people, what their needs are, what are the problems they are facing. I have realized that some of our people are not well informed about their rights.
On the other hand, education & job opportunities; health services and other essential needs and facilities still not provided by the government to people as was planned.
There are no security measures for people in most of rural districts and areas of Afghanistan. Majority of people suffer from poverty. That is why still a gap exists between government and people.
As a member of parliament, we can have an accurate and transparent supervision of government laws and duties.
I as a journalist by having the ability of good communication skills and work experience with people and by reporting any violation and offensive acts to the government will try my best to change the gap to a strong bridge between government and people.  

2.    Do you think about people’s support for this election?
Sona Sahar: As we are all in picture, now most of our people are informed and aware to vote for whom they think is best and will serve the country. Before, they were under pressure, threatened and forced to vote. But now they know that their voting will be kept secret. No one has the right to force or threaten them. People can easily differentiate those who really worked for them and those who didn’t. So they can take their own decision whom to vote and support.
Access to information through communication tools is another opportunity for people to get more information about the candidates. While I was campaigning, I noticed that while moving from one place to another, people disseminated the information of my arrival to another place through phone calls to each other.
It is worth mentioning that nobody can force university students to vote for them. I have talked with many university students, they responded that they will get more information about each candidate and after doing full inquiry, they will decide whom to vote. That is what I found so positive about people’s patronage of the election process. Obviously people know that “good government starts with good people.”

3.    What are the good opportunities you see in front of all parliamentary candidates?
Sona Sahar: In my point of view, we are new and that is a good opportunity for us to run for election. People believe in new candidates and youth power and now they know that youths are active, they have access to new technology, they are educated and they better understand people’s problems and help them best.

4.    What are the big challenges in front of parliamentary candidates?
Sona Sahar: The considerable challenge is insecurity; candidates due to insecurity situation can not campaign in distant districts. Besides most of these areas are controlled by some powerful and influential candidates who prevent other candidates to campaign in those areas.I myself as a candidate from Kabul still succeed to go only to 9 districts of Kabul by help of my friends and my contacts.
The other challenge for candidates is economical situation, in comparison to some rich and financially supported candidates, some of the candidates are not good in economical situation and some are support by help of their friends and families.
Recently there are some sensitivity arose against women candidates in Kabul, their posters are somehow damaged, colored or torn. It is said that they are paid by some rival candidates to do so.

5.    What will be your agenda and policy towards your country if you are elected as a parliamentarian?
Sona Sahar: I will try my best as a parliamentarian to supervise and monitor work of government, working on pending issues and laws, besides proposing new working modules and schemes. Since women and children are both vulnerable groups in our country, I will mostly focus on and consider these two groups. They face problems by any new evolution and changes in the country, Taliban regime is a clear example of it. If I get the chance to be a parliamentarian I would like to establish an advocacy group to lobby for women and children's rights. 

6.    How do you evaluate work (achievements and shortcomings) of previous parliament?
Sona Sahar: We should not expect too much from a newly established parliament of our country. It is a long term process for the changes to take place. However , we can not ignore great achievements of our parliament during their working period. Some important laws have been passed and approved, approval media law, can be counted as a great achievement of our parliament.
Though, there were some shortcomings like lack of access to information, lack of tolerance culture among some parliamentarians, selective rejections of candidate ministers although they were qualified and active. We witness its result today that after one year from presidential election, the cabinet is not complete and some ministries are led by acting ministers which obviously affects their work performance.