Many young people believe they do not need to vote because their votes do not really matter. I believe every vote matters. A political system, a government, even a nation can be changed by one vote.
In Afghanistan, the voting age is eighteen and during the 2014 presidential elections a year ago in April, commercials and the media encouraged young people to go to the polling station and vote, despite the security problems and the risks. Analysts and observers believe that young people voted in large numbers. There do not seem to be any statistics on voting by age, but because more than two-thirds of the Afghan population is under age 25, analysts assume that a large percentage of voters last year were young.
When I went to vote, most of the voters I saw were young people. I felt proud of my young Afghan sisters and brothers who were brave enough to take their future in their own hands by voting.
Unfortunately, the election process was not transparent. The press reported widespread electoral fraud. People’s votes were misused and boxes containing the ballots apparently were opened in several provinces and vote counts were changed.
But for me, the 2014 election was a very good experience. It was my first time voting and I felt like I changed people’s minds by exercising my right to choose the leader of my country. I felt that by voting, my people could be free and could continue their education. I felt I did a tremendous job with just one single vote. It gave me strength and hope for a bright future in Afghanistan.
Our new president is very intelligent and wants to help Afghanistan develop. Although the election did not result in a clear winner, people accept what the government decided for our country and so we now have a president and a chief executive. The chief executive helps our president. As we know, controlling one’s own family is tough, so consider controlling the whole nation. We wish the best for our country so we can avoid bloodshed and cruelty and we can live in peace with a friendly relationship between government and society.
If at least one 18-year-old or 19-year-old in a family voted, I think the government would focus more on issues that are important to young people. Afghan youth want a good educational system and good professors. I hope the government will provide new public institutions so they will be able to continue their education. But probably because of the large young voting population in Afghanistan, I think the government is now trying to promote greater youth participation in government. They are initiating new programs and youth empowerment training—especially with regard to women. They are also appointing provincial council members who are younger compared with the past.
If people don’t vote, they will realize their mistake when a country elects a leader who is wrong for them and their country. When young people vote, it is like a light in the darkness calling for governmental change. If they don’t vote, they should not complain about the leaders because they did not voice their opinion when it truly mattered.
U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) photo: The Atlantic Council and USIP welcomed the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, on the occasion of his first official visit to Washington, D.C. since being sworn in as president on September 21, 2014. The public address took place on March 25, 2015 at USIP headquarters in Washington, D.C.