The polling stations closed last night in what was hailed as Afghanistan’s first free parliamentary elections since 1969. Overseeing the security of the elections in the capital was the special Kabul Multi-National Brigade (KMNB VIII), composed of units from 24 countries, together with the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Kabul City Police (KCP). KMNB VIII patrols of Kabul’s streets started at daybreak, with the police and Afghan army supervising the polling stations. Three days before the vote a large number of 107-mm rockets were found along with some surface-to-air missiles and other explosives in a joint Italo-French operation on the outskirts of Kabul, on the road to Bagram. A few hours before the vote, Kabul’s chief of police and four officers were killed in the city center. Yesterday morning the Counting Center, where ballot boxed are due to be opened and counted was hit by two rocket attacks, which both failed to cause significant damage. According to initial estimates by the multi-national Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), turnout was as high as 55%. For the transportation of ballot boxes a variety of vehicles are being used, from four-wheel drive trucks to a fleet of 1,250 donkeys, 300 horses and 20 camels, allowing even the most remote villages to be reached. The KMNB operation will continue until the counting of the votes ends on October 9, with a declaration of results due on October 22. (AGI, Sept. 19)
A Sept. 19 New York Times account put the turn-out at 50%, and made clear that the figure referred to registered voters, not total population. The Times said officials had been hoping for a higher turn-out.
Women are guaranteed 25% of the parliament seats—more than the US, Canada, Australia and most other countries have in their national legislatures. But many women candidates are facing death threats, and women have especially been warned away from the polls by the neo-Taliban resistance. (Globe & Mail, Sept. 20)
The Pakistan Tribune reports Sept. 19 that women were effectively denied the vote in several provinces, including Zabul, Nangarhar, Khost. Officials there refused to set up separate polling places for women, leaving them vulnerable to intimidation and threats. In Helmand, JEMB official cited a complete lack of women registrants. Helmand provincial governor Sher Mohammad Akhunzada insisted electoral workers had visited the remote districts during the voter registration campaign. “But women out there were not allowed by men to register as voters,” the governor contended. In the eastern Nangarhar province, a women’s polling station had to be closed after poling agents were found involved in distribution of ballot papers already marked in favor of particular candidates.
Another Sept. 19 report in the Pakistan Tribune says 12 people were killed around the country yesterday, as guerillas attempted to intimidate voters away from the polls. Among the dead were a French soldier and four members of the Afghan security forces. The rest were civilians. Five people were also wounded in a grenade attack on the house of an election candidate in Nangarhar province. The elections will determine the make-up of a 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament) and 34 provincial councils.
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