AFGHANISTAN'S ELECTION: A PIVOTAL MOMENT?

It was supposed to be a moment of progress and national renewal. But as Afghans head to the polls on Saturday for long-delayed elections in which 2,500 candidates are contending for 249 seats in parliament, their country is struggling with a litany of challenges – Gabe breaks it down for you:


Seventeen years after the United States led an invasion meant to uproot the Taliban and create conditions for a new national government, violence persists, central authority is weak outside of the capital, and a resurgent Taliban controls large swaths of the country. The political situation is badly fractured – following an inconclusive presidential election in 2014, Afghanistan has been governed by a tenuous US-backed power sharing arrangement between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who holds the post of “chief executive.”

Tomorrow’s elections were originally scheduled for 2015, but violence and political bickering made that impossible. Although security has improved in some areas, around a third of polling places across the country will not even be open on Saturday because it’s too dangerous. So far, at least 10 candidates running for office have been killed, including a parliamentary candidate who died on Wednesday from a bomb planted under his office chair.

One way to stem the violence would be a peace deal between the government and the Taliban. But despite an unprecedented ceasefire earlier this year, the prospect for peace seems far off. While the Trump administration is interested in brokering a peace, Kabul is wary of working through Washington—a precondition for the Taliban, who refuses to negotiate directly with the Afghan government. President Ghani will be increasingly reluctant to risk a politically costly peace process whose results are uncertain as he looks toward reelection next year.

Saturday’s vote could prove a step in the right direction. The fact that the unity government is finally allowing the election to take place suggests it may finally be ready to agree on long-stalled electoral reforms that would enable a smoother and more transparent presidential election next year. As for the election itself, younger Afghans are running for office in droves and a new generation is turning out to vote in an effort to bring fresh energy to government and to put an end to the country’s endemic corruption.

After years of delay, it’s a good sign that Afghans will finally get an opportunity to cast their ballots. Whether the vote ushers in much-needed change for a nation beset by challenges remains to be seen.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

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In recent years, Republicans have come to dominate most of the state legislatures in the US. Ironically, it was during the Obama-era that the GOP made major headway in states that had long been considered safely blue. State legislatures are now redder than they've been in nearly a century, and in most parts of the country, one party holds all the levers of power. For the first time since 1914, there's only one split legislature in the entire country: Minnesota. To be sure, some state races are bucking the trend: Kentucky and Louisiana, both deep-red states, recently elected Democratic governors. Here's a look at how Democratic and Republican control of state legislatures has evolved over the past four decades.

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