Afghan election campaign kicks off amid violence

Published September 29, 2018
Kabul: Posters for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections on display over a street during the first day of the campaign on Friday.—AP
Kabul: Posters for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections on display over a street during the first day of the campaign on Friday.—AP

KABUL: Campaigning for Afghanistan’s long-delayed parliamentary elections star­ted on Friday, as a crescendo of deadly violence and claims of widespread fraud fuel debate over whether the vote will go ahead.

More than 2,500 candidates will contest the October 20 poll, which is seen as a test run for next year’s presidential vote and a key milestone ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva where Afghanistan is under pressure to show progress on “democratic processes”.

But preparations for the ballot, which is more than three years late, have been in turmoil for months, despite UN-led efforts to keep Afghan organisers on track.

Bureaucratic inefficiency, allegations of industrial-scale fraud and now an eleventh-hour pledge for biometric verification of voters threaten to derail the election and any hope of a credible result.

It will be “highly flawed”, a Western diplomat admitted this week, reflecting falling expectations across Kabul’s international community, which is providing most of the funding for the elections.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has insisted voting will go ahead, with or without the biometric machines that have been demanded by opposition groups to prevent people from voting more than once.

Only 4,400 out of the 22,000 German-made machines ordered have been delivered to Afghanistan, officials said.

“They have promised (biometric verification) and they may do it, but will it be successful in dispelling the concerns? I’m doubtful,” Afghanistan Analysts Network researcher Ali Yawar Adili said.

The list of candidates, which has been trimmed to 2,565 after 35 were expelled, are competing for 249 seats in the lower house, whose members are widely derided as corrupt and ineffective.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2018

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