Daily brief: Afghanistan votes: scattered attacks, low turnout
It’s go timePolls for Afghanistan’s second presidential election were open today from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. local time, an hour past the 4 p.m. deadline, which authorities extended in order to allow more Afghans to vote (AP). Some 6,600 of the 7,000 voting stations were open, according to the Afghan government (New York Times). ...
It’s go time
Polls for Afghanistan’s second presidential election were open today from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. local time, an hour past the 4 p.m. deadline, which authorities extended in order to allow more Afghans to vote (AP). Some 6,600 of the 7,000 voting stations were open, according to the Afghan government (New York Times).
Tales of turnout
Carlotta Gall, one of the best reporters in the region, reports an initially spotty turnout, with militants putting up roadblocks to warn off voters and, as threatened, killing two people whose fingers were marked with the indelible ink of the voter (New York Times). Analysts assess that a high voter turnout could help marginalize the Taliban and confer legitimacy on the election results (CNN).
A voting official in Kandahar,
the spiritual homeland of the Taliban,
said that turnout appears to be forty percent lower than in 2004, and AP correspondents reported similarly shorter lines in the capital, Kabul (AP). The AFP also reports a low voter turnout, especially in the south and east (AFP). Low turnout in these areas, largely Pashtun, is bad news for the incumbent president, Hamid Karzai, who draws much of his support from his fellow Pashtuns.
Taliban violence has threatened the election from the start, and some 300,000 Afghan and foreign forces are deployed to protect the 17 million voters (BBC). And the Afghan government said that the news media should refrain from reporting on election day violence, to keep voters from being afraid to come out — however, it appears that this did not happen, with some journalists saying they just planned to ignore the ban (Wall Street Journal).
Militant violence, which has built up to a crescendo in past weeks, continued on election day. Twenty-two Taliban were killed in Baghlan as they attacked the town, rockets landed in Kandahar City, Lashkar Gah, Ghazni and Kunduz, and two Taliban were killed in a gun battle with Afghan security forces in Kabul (Telegraph, Reuters, Reuters).
Okay, now what?
Preliminary election results are expected to be announced on Saturday (AP). The big question is whether incumbent president Hamid Karzai will get more than 50% of the vote, eliminating the need for a runoff between himself and the presumed second place candidate, Abdullah Abdullah.
Concerns about voter fraud and corruption may also pose challenges to vote-counting and the perceived legitimacy of the election, with reports of voters removing the indelible ink from their fingers using bleach (Reuters). Resolving election complaints and coming up with final figures could take until well into September, and if there is a runoff, it would be in early October (Los Angeles Times).
And on the U.S. front
Fifty-one percent of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, up from forty-five percent in July (Washington Post). And sixty-four percent are not confident that today’s presidential election will produce a government that can rule the country effectively.
Oops, I voted again
U.S. pop star Britney Spears has reportedly been registered to vote in today’s election in Afghanistan, feeding into widespread fears of voter fraud (Reuters). It’s unknown which candidate she supports.
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BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
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