Afghans vote amid chaos, corruption and
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[October 20, 2018]
By Rupam Jain and Abdul Qadir Sediqi
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghans voted on Saturday
in parliamentary elections overshadowed by chaotic organization,
allegations of corruption and violence that has forced a postponement of
the vote in the strategic southern province of Kandahar.
With Taliban insurgents in control of large areas of the country,
thousands killed in the fighting and doubts about the success of the
U.S. strategy to force the insurgents to accept peace talks by stepping
up air strikes, the credibility of the Western-backed government is at
Several security incidents marred the polling day, with more than 30
incidents recorded. In the northern city of Kunduz 53 people were
wounded and three killed in various incidents. In Nangarhar in the east,
seven people were wounded in a blast and Ghor in the west at least 11
police were killed.
However by early afternoon there had been no major attack.
Wider election concerns have centered on technical and organizational
problems with biometric voter registration equipment, polling stations
not opening on time, missing election materials and delays forcing
The Independent Election Commission (IEC), the body overseeing the
ballot, said voting hours would be extended in some centers to cope with
demand and some polling stations, which had not opened at all, would be
open on Sunday.
"The biggest problem is with the biometric machines, there are some
sites where they're not working and a lot of voters have been
discouraged and have gone home," said Nasibullah Sayedi, a voter in the
western city of Herat.
There were similar reports from other areas including the capital Kabul.
The Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, a civil action
group, said its team of observers found almost a third of polling
centers were not in a position to use the biometric equipment.
The untried technology, aimed at preventing election fraud, was rushed
in at the last minute, over the objections of foreign partners who said
there was not enough time to set up the system.
The organizational headaches come on top of fears of violence,
particularly following the assassination of the police chief of Kandahar
on Thursday, which forced authorities to delay the election in the
province by a week.
Taliban militants have issued a series of statements telling people not
to take part in what they consider a foreign-imposed process and warning
election centers may be attacked.
Afghanistan's political scene is still tainted by the aftermath of a
disputed presidential vote in 2014 that forced the two main rival
groupings to form an unstable partnership. Both sides were accused of
massive electoral cheating.
The widespread allegations of voter fraud made before Saturday's
election present a challenge to the legitimacy of the process, seen by
Afghanistan's international partners as a vital step ahead of more
important presidential elections next year.
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An Afghan man arrives as a woman casts her vote during parliamentary
elections at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 20,
2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Due to the difficulty of collecting and collating results across
Afghanistan, the overall results will not be known for at least two
But Western diplomats expressed cautious optimism that the process,
while messy, had not been disastrous. Apparently high numbers
turning out to vote suggested fears of voter apathy may have been
"I want candidates to serve the country and hear the voices of the
disabled and the poor," said Abdullah, a wheelchair-bound voter in
Herat. "People ask what difference one person's vote will make but I
say, if a million disabled people come out to vote, don't you think
that will make a difference?"
In Baghlan province in northern Afghanistan, men and women came out
in numbers to vote and created human chains around six polling
stations to prevent the entry of suicide bombers.
Some 8.8 million voters have been registered but an unknown number,
by some estimates as many as 50 percent or more, are believed to be
fraudulently or incorrectly registered.
About 2,450 candidates are competing for places in the lower house,
which has 250 seats, including one reserved for a candidate from the
Sikh minority. Under the constitution, parliament reviews and
ratifies laws but has little real power.
Election authorities originally planned 7,355 polling centers but
only 5,100 will be able to open due to security concerns, according
to the IEC.
Voting has also been delayed in Ghazni province, by arguments about
the representation of different ethnic groups.
(Additional reporting by Storay Karimi in HERAT, Mohammad Stanekzai
in LASHKAR GAH; Sardar Razmal in KUNDUZ; Zaker Noory in Baghlan,
Qiam Shams in in CHARIKAR and Akram Walizada, Sayed Hassib, Hamid
Shalizi in KABUL; writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Sam Holmes
and Ros Russell)
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