Afghan polling centres plagued by problems as casualties surge

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, KABUL

Oct 22, 2018-

Problems plagued hundreds of Afghan polling centres on Sunday in the shambolic legislative election’s second day of voting, fuelling criticism of organisers and eroding hopes for credible results after a ballot marred by deadly violence. As voting restarted in more than 20 provinces, an AFP tally of official casualty figures showed the number of civilians and security forces killed or wounded in poll-related violence on Saturday was nearly 300—almost twice the figure released by the interior ministry.

The huge discrepancy adds to concerns about the lack of transparency and credibility of the long-delayed election that is seen as a dry run for next year’s presidential vote. At some of the 253 polling centres opened for voting on Sunday, election workers still struggled to use biometric verification devices and voter rolls were “either incomplete or non-existent”, Electoral Complaints Commission spokesman Ali Reza Rohani told reporters.

“Most of the problems we had yesterday still exist today,” said Rohani, adding some polling sites again opened late and had insufficient ballot papers. Another 148 polling sites that were supposed to open remained closed for security reasons, the Independent Election Commission told AFP. The IEC’s chronic mishandling of the parliamentary election, which is the third since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, has all but dashed hopes it can organise the presidential ballot, scheduled for April.

“This does not bode well for next year,” Afghanistan Analysts Network co-director Thomas Ruttig told AFP. “The IEC has clearly shown its lack of capacity to run acceptable and transparent elections, instead publishing doctored figures.” A Western official, who had monitored the months-long preparations, told AFP they had no confidence left in the IEC.

“None at all,” they said on the condition of anonymity. “With the current IEC leadership there are a lot of doubts that they would be able to handle  the presidential election properly,” political analyst Haroun Mir said. Initial IEC figures show around three million people risked their lives to vote on Saturday—many waiting hours for polling centres to open—despite scores of militant attacks.

Nearly nine million voters registered for the parliamentary election, but many suspect a significant number of those were based on fake identification documents that fraudsters planned to use to stuff ballot boxes. But the fact any Afghans turned out to vote was an achievement in itself, some observers noted. “The people of Afghanistan showed that they are still hopeful for their future,” Mir said.

Published: 22-10-2018 10:48

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