Wounded but undeterred

  • Afghan voters braved threat of violence and came out to vote

Oct 22, 2018-

While some Afghans turn to radicalism and die for religion, some have chosen to risk their lives for democracy. The Afghan parliamentary election that was initially slated for 2015 happened three years late last week. The delay was caused not only by the security situation, but also unresolved disagreements about election reform and potential fraud. Even then, there were several explosions targeted at polling stations during the third parliamentary election since the country’s new constitution was adopted in 2004. Dozens of people were killed or injured in scores of incidents across the country. Yet, in an inspiring show of fearlessness and resilience, the 8.8 million Afghans who were expected to vote defied deadly attacks to cast their ballots in the nation’s long-awaited parliamentary elections.

Afghanistan is a fledging democracy. It has been four years since most North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) troops left the country too. Bitter wrangling over electoral reform since the stalemate of the 2014 presidential poll delayed the election by three and a half years. In fact, the country was on the brink of a civil war following it. Most Afghans are now desperate for a better life, job and education. But most importantly, they want to see an end to the war with the Taliban. Last December, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced that parliamentary and district council elections would be held in 2018. Although many were sceptical if they would actually happen, 2,565 candidates got their names on the ballot, including many women, for the 250 seats in the Wolesi Jirga—Afghanistan’s Lower House of Parliament.

No doubt, the war-torn country is beset by crisis. The Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had vowed to disrupt the vote. The much-awaited election did turn out into a much-threatened one. While several explosions sent voters fleeing from polling stations, violence also marred the election campaign. Ten candidates were killed in the run-up to the elections while a top Afghan commander was killed in a Kandahar gun attack for which the Taliban claimed responsibility. Similarly, in April, 60 people lost their lives in Kabul while registering to vote—the deadliest killing claimed by the ISIS. Yet, despite the pressure mounted by insurgents to impede the elections, the bravery and resilience with which the voters turned out in extraordinary numbers indicated an increased trust of the masses in the Republic of Afghanistan. People shut out by chaos had returned to vote.

This should be an inspiration for all of us who take elections for granted, and as a corollary, do not come out to vote.

Published: 22-10-2018 08:10

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