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Teachers: Citizenship: Electoral Systems

Last Updated: Monday September 19 2005 15:31 GMT

Voting systems: Afghanistan case study

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Electoral systems and voting


An Afghan woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif

Voters in Afghanistan picked their leaders with the help of cartoon symbols during the first government and local elections for more than 30 years.

The pictures were there to make the process easier for people at polling stations on Sunday 18 September 2005.

Students look at the Afghan elections and think about times when they have voted.

Learning aims
  • Definitions of election, local council election, national government election, candidate, polling station,voting slip or ballot paper
  • Voting is one way decisions can be made
  • Different voting method can affect the result

Comprehension: Afghanistan elections case study

Read out this information to the students:

The news-story, fact box, and the following questions are available as a printable worksheet. Click on the links below the fact box.

Election workers load ballot boxes onto a donkey in Afghanistan
2,800 parliamentary candidates
3,000 candidates for 34 local councils
About 25% of seats reserved for women
26,000 polling stations
Final result due 22 October

Voters in Afghanistan picked who they wanted to run the country with the help of cartoon symbols.

The pictures were there to make the process easier for more than 12 million voters who had 5,800 possible leaders, or candidates, to chose from.

The voting slips contained each of the candidates' names, their photographs and a cartoon symbol representing them.

One reason for this was to make it easier to tell the massive number of candidates apart.

Another reason is that lots of people in Afghanistan can't read or write.


One candidate, Mohammad Isaq, used the symbol of a deer.

Other symbols included a cassette, a TV, a football and a cricket bat, which were previously banned in Afghanistan.

Previous rulers

From the mid-1990s to 2001, the country was run by a group called the Taleban who banned television, radio, music and education for women.

The recent elections, on Sunday 18 September 2005, are being seen a move away from such control and from years of war in the country.

But six people were killed during attacks, which have been largely blamed on supporters of the Taleban, who are against the election.

Double election

Voters took part in two elections: One for the people they wanted to run the country and another for the people they wanted to be in charge of local areas.

It is the first national government and local council elections for more than 30 years.

The final results are due in late October.

Ask students:

1. Write down the meaning, or definition, of these words:

  • election
  • local council election
  • national government election
  • candidate
  • polling station
  • voting slip or ballot paper
2. How many candidates were there in the recent elections in Afghanistan? 5,800 candidates.

3. What information was contained on the voting slips or ballot papers in Afghanistan? Each of the candidates' names, their photographs and a cartoon symbol representing them.

4. Why were cartoon pictures used? Give two reasons. To make it easier for voters to tell the massive number of candidates apart and because lots of people in Afghanistan can't read or write.

5. List four objects that were previously banned in Afghanistan. Cassettes, TVs, footballs, cricket bats.

6. Who banned these objects? Previous rulers, a group called the Taleban.

7. When was power taken from the Taleban following a US-led war? 1991.

8. How many years ago did Afghanistan hold national government and local council elections? 30 years ago.

9. When are the election results due to be announced? Late October.

Main activity

When do you vote?

Ask students if they have ever voted for something, e.g:

  • Big Brother
  • Online voting
Ask them for suggestions of other things people vote for, e.g:
  • TV debates
  • Talent competitions
Make a class list of things people vote for.

An Afghan policeman frisks a voter at the entrance of a polling centre in Kabul, 18 September 2005
Telephone poll
Postal vote
Internet poll
Polling stations with secret ballots
A show of hands

In groups, students list the differing ways in which people vote. Use this fact box for inspiration.

Students match the list of things people vote for with the best voting method. They should pick the best method for each particular type of vote, bearing in mind the following factors:

  • speed
  • security
  • access (particularly Internet votes)
  • accuracy
  • cost
  • confidentiality
  • opportunities for a recount
Ask students:
  • Are some of the methods more suitable in certain situations?
  • Are there other ways in which people make decisions? E.g school governors deciding on school uniform.
Extension activity

School council

Discuss how a school council could help in making decisions that affect the school.

Ask students:

  • How would members of the council be elected in a fair way?
  • If a council is already in place, how could the selection process be improved?
  • Is everyone is represented by the current members?

Students feedback reasons for their choice of method for particular types of vote.

They also feedback ideas for the school council.

Teachers' background

Palace Of Westminster

How the UK country makes its decisions:

Parliament has two democratically-elected Houses. The House of Commons is the most powerful of Parliament's two houses. It has 659 members who are elected when the whole nation votes in a general election.

The House of Lords doesn't have much power. It can delay a bill which the Commons wants to make into law but it can't get rid of it completely.

There are 675 members of the Lords made up of bishops, members of the nobility (hereditary peers) and life peers who've been given a title because of an outstanding achievement.

The Lords talk about proposed laws & act as a final check.

All bills must go through both Houses before they become 'Acts' (laws).

The main political parties are Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The party which gets the most votes is asked by The Queen to form the next government.

Members of Parliament (MPs) represent everyone in their constituency, even the ones who didn't vote for them.

A general election must be held at least every five years but the Prime Minister can call one whenever she or he likes.

You have to be at least 18 years old to vote.

Some other people aren't allowed to vote such as the mentally ill, criminals and peers (the nobility).

Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, but a 'cabinet' of senior politicians called ministers actually governs the country.

The Queen has the final say on whether a bill becomes law.

Curriculum relevance

Citizenship / KS 2&3

1c. Central and local government
1d. Key characteristics of parliamentary and other forms of government
1e. Electoral system and the importance of voting
1g. Importance of resolving conflict fairly
2a. Topical, political issues, problems and events through analysis of information and its sources, including ICT-based sources
2b. Justify orally and in writing a personal opinion about such issues, problems or events contribute to group and exploratory class discussions, and take part in debates.

The numbers refer to the National Curriculum programme of study for KS3.

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