Afghan 2010 Basics: Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV)

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With less than one per cent of the vote, a candidate can be elected to Afghanistan’s lower assembly, the Wolesi Jirga.

The voting method employed for the September 18 poll is called the Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV) system.

After he was elected in 2004, President Hamid Karzai chose the system, which is used in Jordan, Vanuatu and the upper houses of Indonesia and Thailand.

It is based on multi-member constituencies where each voter has only vote regardless of how many seats are assigned to their constituency.

For example, Kabul province has 36 seats in the Wolesi Jirga but each voter can only vote for one candidate.

The system is criticized because it can lead to undemocratic results where candidates can win with a fraction of the total vote. In the 2005 Wolesi Jirga elections, one candidate won with 0.54 per cent of the total vote.

It also fails to promote the development of political parties as candidates are listed as individuals and not as members of parties.

The advantage, however, of the SNTV system is that it makes possible for members of small parties, little-known individuals and independent candidates to win seats, which would be difficult if not impossible if the proportional system was in use.

The lack of a census, or even a voter registration list, makes a change to a system based on a single-mandate district unfeasible.

A proportional representation system, meanwhile, could work within a multi-member constituency yet requires the presence of a political parties, which are not largely yet to be established.

The system also presents practical issues in regards to the voluminous size of the ballot paper in some constituencies. The 600 candidates listed in Kabul province are spread over 12 double-sided pages.