Recknagel, Muhammad Tahir,
KABUL -- The Taliban vowed to disrupt Afghanistan's
parliamentary polls, but despite making good on their threats the elections went
ahead largely as planned.
At a Kabul polling station, an election worker cleans and applies ink on a
Attacks by the hard-line Islamic militia killed at least 10
people across the country, with the worst raid occurring in the northern Baghlan
There, gunmen killed one Afghan soldier and six pro-government
militiamen at a security outpost next to a polling station. Rocket strikes in
northern Takhar Province and eastern Kunar and Nangarhar provinces killed
another three people.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) said 8 percent of
the 5,816 polling centers scheduled to be used had either not opened or not
reported in, mostly because of security fears.
That was in addition to another 1,019 sites which election officials had earlier
decided not to open due to the inability of government forces to guarantee their
Amid the reports of violence, it remains unclear what percent of voters
nationwide turned out for the poll. That figure cannot be known immediately.
But in many areas there were early reports of good turnout, including in
Radio Free Afghanistan's correspondent in Kandahar, Muhammad Sidiq Reshten, said
city residents came out to vote in large numbers but residents of smaller towns
tended to stay home.
"The initial participation of the people in city centers was large but, in
contrast to the city, the number of voters in the rural districts [of Kandahar
Province] was very much lower," Reshten said.
"A resident of Nagehan village [in Arghandab district] told me at noon today
that up until that time there were no ballot papers and boxes, so they were
waiting to be able to vote."
Problems with inadequate numbers of ballots were also reported in some other
areas of the country, including in the northern province of Jawzjan.
Hossein Saleh, an activist with a local Turkmen NGO in Jawzjan Province, told
Radio Free Afghanistan that ballots in his town ran out just three hours after
polling stations opened nationwide at 0700 local time.
There were also complaints by some voters that the ink used to stain their
fingers washed off easily. The ink is meant to prevent voters from casting their
But of potentially greater concern for voters across the country were worries
about fraudulent voter registration cards and fake ballots. Election watchdogs
reported thousands of fake voter registration cards across Afghanistan before
The IEC sought again to quell those fears, saying election officials could
distinguish genuine from false papers.
Zekeria Barakzai, the deputy head of the secretariat of the election commission,
said "All of our ballot papers have a special code, which cannot easily be
"We held discussions with security officials about what to do to prevent such
falsification from happening. Due to the efforts of the commission, several
people were arrested in different provinces of Afghanistan," Barakzai said.
Afghanistan's last election -- the presidential election of 2009 -- was marred
by massive fraud during the first round. President Hamid Karzai was subsequently
declared reelected after his challenger withdrew before the scheduled second
round, saying a fair contest could not be guaranteed.
Despite their concerns about both security and fraud, many voters expressed
confidence that casting their ballots was worth the risk.
Sayed Ahmed Jamal Murabez, a voter in the downtown Shahr-i-Now neighborhood,
came with two of his sons to vote early in the morning. He said he had
confidence his vote can help build a better future for the country.
"Of course, one vote can change the fate of the nation, if the government is
established based upon the votes of the people," Murabez said.
As he cast his ballot on one side of the girls' high school that serves as the
neighborhood's polling station, the women in his family voted separately on the
These legislative elections are widely seen as important because the parliament
has grown increasingly assertive over recent years, despite the country's strong
presidential system. The lower house has the power to approve or reject laws
proposed by the government and to approve the president's choice of ministers.
One woman voting in Kabul, Nafas Gul, said she hoped the parliament would only
grow stronger after the elections.
"God willing, they [the ballots] will take the voice of the poor to the
parliament, so that people will live in peace and won't be worried [in the
future] about conflicts and disagreements," Gul said.
The preliminary results from the voting will not be known until October 8 at the
earliest, with final results not expected before October 30.
Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Masom Miwand
contributed to this report
Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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