Despite threats, Afghans take to polls

September 23rd, 2010

Afghanistan took another step toward democracy this past weekend with their third major election, but not without violence and reports of mass fraud. However, for the most part, the election went on as planned. According to the Washington Post, 40 percent of the registered population cast their votes, but 17 of the country’s 34 provinces reported attacks by insurgents in efforts to disrupt the elections and discourage people to vote. Reports from the Afghan commission chief, Fazal Ahmad Manawi, said that the most common method of fraud was that many voters were able to remove the “unremovable” ink from their fingers in order to vote again.

Earlier in the week, Taliban insurgents had kidnapped a parliamentary candidate and 18 election officials. The Taliban threatened to kill candidates and other workers, as well as cutting off the ink-stained fingers of voters. Afghan President Hamid Karzai attempted to encourage his citizens to “vote from their hearts.” He also commented on the Taliban, saying “they should serve their country and participate.” Approximately 400,000 soldiers and policemen were deployed by the Afghan government and NATO. According to the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the minor elections of the season preceding the ones this weekend, were the most violent since the dismantling of Taliban rule in 2001.

Many efforts were taken to prevent the widespread election fraud of that which has happened in past elections. Workers reported thousands of fraudulent registration cards and ballots even before the election took place. An official of the Independent Election Commission, Zekeria Barakzai, said that the  valid “ballot papers have a special code, which cannot easily be falsified.” He also commented that the commission “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. The results of the election could take up to six weeks to be properly collected and counted. The presidential election of last year did not have a final result until months after the election.

Despite the threat of violence and reports of fraud, the Afghan people found the positives outweighed the negatives, and still got out and exercised their right to vote. World leaders supported the courage of the people of Afghanistan for participating in the election. The Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, praised the “fully Afghan-led parliamentary elections under extremely difficult circumstances.” “I decided to vote for a new candidate,” an Afghan man told the Washington Post. “What did the old parliament do? Nothing. I’m going to look at the ballot, find a new name and vote for that person.” He went on to tell them that he was threatened on his way to pray at the mosque that morning by two flyers threatening citizens not to vote. He had this to say about the intimidation efforts of the Taliban: “These letters will not scare us.”