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Afghanistan votes in 2018 parliamentary elections despite loopholes, chaos

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: Voting for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections officially began on Saturday morning across the country and was extended for one more day as thousands couldn’t vote amid delays and technical interruptions.

The nation defied Taliban warnings and flocked to the polls in droves in the midst of terror attacks, in what was seen as a gloomy day for the broken nation of Afghanistan.

The voting, however, counter-intuitively fared bad mostly because of long delays in opening polling stations as well as malfunctioning of biometric voting system, a setback that prompted the election commission to extend polls for one more day to enable hundreds of thousands of ‘left behind’ voters to exercise their franchise.

The election was engulfed by carnage as a total of 250 terror events occurred during the two days of polls which left at least 49 people killed. Passive and deliberately maladroit management of the polls triggered a widespread disenchantment, and disenfranchised thousands.

During the two-day process, observers criticized disarray and maladministration in the polling which, they allege, triggered electoral interference and voter fraud. People in Kandahar and Ghazni each with 11 seats in the parliament could not vote. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has reported ‘widespread fraud’ in 32 provinces. The commission which observed the polls reported a belated opening of polling stations in most of the provinces.

The bulk of the irregularities sprang from dysfunctional biometric devices, AIHRC Director Sima Samar said Sunday. She reported widespread fraud, many accounts of proxy voting and low-quality finger inking, despite earlier promises by the election commission to arrange a transparent election.

The opposition alliance on Sunday turned the heat up on the government and its election commission and said they failed to hold a transparent election, having deprived people in droves of their right to vote. The opposition parties said electoral employees were not trained well on how to use biometric devices.

On the first day, the voting continued till 6pm in polling stations where the voting was belated. Mr. Sayyad said 4,530 polling stations out of 4,901 were open and only 371 sites remained close due to technical issues. He had pleaded with all electoral employees and security agencies and officials to exercise impartiality and prevent from voter fraud.

After the second day of the vote concluded, Chief of the Independent Election Commission Abdulbadi Sayad said that elections fared well and four million voters turnout out – 67pc men and 33pc women. Polls took place in 4,500 polling centers on the first day and in 76 sites out of 401 on the second day due to security threats.

Technical problems persisted on the second day with more voters complaining about disarray and irregularities in polling stations. They said that they could not vote even after waiting in queues for hours, their names were not on the voter lists, and that electoral employees did not know how to use biometric devices.

It is as the election commission acknowledged there were serious problems but denied they had anything to do with the commission. The poll panel has also claimed that strongmen interfered and sabotaged ballots.

Moreover, Minister of Interior Wais Ahmad Barmak said on Sunday that totally 250 terrorist event happened during the two-day polling process, killing at least 49 people including 27 civilians, 21 policemen and one army soldier were killed. “During Sunday’s terrorist attacks, 13 police personnel were killed.

Deputy Interior Minister Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi had earlier said that these terror events included a suicide bombing in Kabul, five direct attacks over polling sites, 71 light and heavy gun attacks on polling sites and 71 on security outposts, 12 roadside and sonic mine explosions, four explosions on security forces, two ambushes and many other security threats. He said that 126 people including 100 civilians, 19 police, five army soldiers, an intelligence operative and an electoral employee were wounded during attacks. Ibrahimi said 31 Taliban militants were killed and 8 wounded in a series of offensives launched by Afghan security forces, which also resulted in the arrest of 18 rebels.

Saturday was a deadly day for Afghanistan with tens of terrorist attacks all over the country. A suicide bomber struck a polling station in the north of Kabul. Police Chief Spokesman Basir Mujahid said five people were killed and 10 wounded. The health ministry however said five people were killed and 27 wounded in the suicide bombing.

Kunduz province also saw drastic violence as Taliban had fired a barrage of nearly 40 rockets on polling stations in Imam Sahib, Ali Abad and Chahardara districts. Provencal Council Chief Yusuf Ayobi said clashes erupted between Taliban and security forces in Aliabad district. Reports said over two people were killed and over 30 wounded all over Kunduz.

The Emergency Hospital, according to a program coordinator, had received 48 injured, among them 33 were hospitalized and 14 were discharged after treatments. Another person was already dead when he was brought to the hospital, said the source. These casualties hailed from various parts of Kabul, Kapisa’s Tagab district, eastern Logar province and southern Ghazni province.

The voting which began early on Saturday has been marred by large-scale irregularities and operational mismanagement. The election commission had to extend the polls until Sunday to compensate for delays in opening hundreds of polling stations and malfunctioning of the biometric voting technology which could have disenfranchised hundreds of thousands.

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