Date :Saturday, October 20th, 2018 | Time : 13:48 |ID: 74804 | Print

Afghanistan’s parliamentary election voting opened despite security threats

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SHAFAQNAPolls opened in Afghanistan‘s parliamentary election on Saturday, the third since the Taliban’s fall in 2001, despite security threats from the Taliban armed group and ongoing fighting in as many as 20 out of the country’s 34 provinces.

Voting centres opened at 7am (02:30GMT) and will close at 4pm (12:30GMT).

Close to nine million Afghans have registered to take part in the vote, which was first scheduled for 2015.

There are 21,000 voting stations in 5,100 polling centres in the country’s 33 participating provinces.

The Taliban have vowed to disrupt Saturday’s vote, warning teachers and students not to allow schools to be used for as precincts and warning Afghans to stay away from the polls. Ghani said Afghans alone are carrying out elections as he praised the millions of voters who registered, defying threats from insurgents.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “The more than 8 million people who registered have shown that they themselves will decide the future of Afghanistan,” Times now news reported.

Security has been a major issue in the run up to voting day. Since late September, when campaigning officially started, at least 10 candidates have killed and two others abducted.

Afghanistan’s interior ministry told Al Jazeera it has deployed more than 70,000 security forces across the country to ensure security of the voters.

There was a heavy presence of security forces on the streets of the capital, Kabul, with vehicles being searched and some roads closed.

In the city’s District 9, voters started queuing early on Saturday. Most voters said they cast their ballot without any issues.

I waited in the queue for 30 minutes to vote. The process was easy and I am happy. Overall I believe in the ongoing process, but we will see what will happen,” 60-year-old Ali Shah told Al Jazeera after casting his vote.

The electoral commission said one-quarter of the polling centers in the country will not be open because of security concerns.

Several hours after voting was supposed to start some polling stations were yet to allow voters to cast their ballot.

“We have been waiting for an hour and the process has not been started yet. They said the materials have not arrived yet,” Latifa Amarkhil, a doctor, said while she waited to vote at Al Fatah High School in Kabul.

Khalid Amel, an agent for one of the candidates, said there were also issues with some of the electronic voting materials.

“The biometric system has a problem. It does not accept some fingerprints. The process is not going according to schedule. The voting centre is small and large number of people have turnout,” Amel said.

“Our responsibility is to hold elections and it is the responsibility of government to maintain security of election,” Zabih Ullah Sadat, deputy spokesman for the electoral commission, told on Saturday.

Despite the vote not taking place across the entire country, Sadat said the poll results will be valid and the vote free and fair.

“We have taken enough measures to hold transparent elections. The elections will be transparent and fair,” he said.

The Taliban has vowed to disrupt elections

The election has been delayed by a week in the southern province of Kandahar following the assassination on Thursday of the province’s powerful police chief, General Abdul Raziq, in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

Voting will also not take place in Ghazni because of the precarious security situation – the Taliban controls significant parts of the province. There is also an ongoing dispute over how to divide Ghazni’s electoral constituencies to have a more balanced ethnic representation.

The Taliban has vowed to disrupt what it calls “bogus elections”.

“People who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security should be targeted and no stone should be left unturned for the prevention and failure [of the elections],” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement last week.

Explosions reported as election voting starts

Two explosions were reported in Kabul hours after parliamentary election polls opened in Afghanistan.

Police spokesman Jan Agha said a “sticky bomb” placed under the vehicle of an intelligence official exploded in the Karte Se neighbourhood in the west of the capital.

There were no immediate reports of injuries but security officials are on high alert as both Islamic State and the Taliban have vowed to disrupt polling.

Earlier, a small explosion frightened voters queuing at a polling station in the Qarabagh neighbourhood, north of Kabul, to cast their ballot in the first parliamentary elections since 2010.

There were no injuries in the first act of violence to be reported since polls opened at 7am local time on Saturday, Independent mentioned.

Several security incidents marred the polling day, with more than 30 incidents recorded. In the northern city of Kunduz 53 people were wounded and three killed in various incidents. In Nangarhar in the east, seven people were wounded in a blast and Ghor in the west at least 11 police were killed.

However by early afternoon there had been no major attack, Reuters noticed.

Seats, candidates and polling stations

There are 2,565 candidates vying for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament, including 417 women candidates. Voters will be able to cast ballots at more than 19,000 polling stations in 32 provinces. Of those, the elections commission says as many as 11,667 polling stations are reserved for men and 7,429 for women, while 46 will serve Afghan nomads, known as Kochis, and 22 will serve minority Sikhs and Hindus. The Kochis have 10 parliament seats reserved for them while the Sikhs and Hindus jointly have one seat, according to Yahoo.

Major players and parties

A few parties have emerged in opposition to the current national unity government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, but none can be considered major players as most candidates in the vote are running as independents.

Afghanistan’s parliament includes both a lower and an upper house, but only members of the lower house are directly elected. The upper house consists of a mixture of parliamentarians chosen from local councils and those appointed by the president, as well as members elected in district elections. Legislature passed in the lower house has to be approved by the upper chamber.

Why is this election important?

The Afghan government aims to send a message to the Taliban with this election that despite the ongoing violent campaigns by the armed group, the government is functioning and that the Taliban will have to come to the negotiating table through a political process acceptable to all Afghans.

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