Afghanistan elections: People shut out by chaos return to vote

Hundreds of polling stations opened in Afghanistan for a second day of voting for voters who were unable to cast their ballot on Saturday due to deadly violence and technical glitches.

A roadside bomb killed nearly a dozen civilians on Sunday, including several children, in the eastern Nangarhar province.

Many polling stations had failed to open on the first day of voting, due to staff not showing up.

The voting on Saturday was marred by violence with over 120 incidents involving hand grenades or improvised explosive devices. Dozens of people were killed or wounded across the country. Saturday’s violence was not as bad as some officials had feared, following calls by the Taliban militant group to boycott the election.

Around 3 million people, from nearly 9 million registered voters, defied the threat of militant attacks to cast their ballot in the first parliamentary elections held in the country since 2010.

More than 1 million people voted in the capital Kabul but turnout was very low in the provinces, said Naeem Ayubzada, director of Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, a civic action body that has been monitoring the ballot.

‘People deserve right to vote’

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan said it was encouraged by the high numbers who voted on Saturday, despite long delays due to technical and organizational problems.

“Those eligible voters who were not able to cast their vote, due to technical issues, deserve the right to vote,” it said.

Polling on Sunday continues in 401 voting centers, including 45 in Kabul. Some 500 extra officials have been deployed. The results of the polling will not be released before mid-November and final results will not be out until December.

The parliamentary elections are seen as a test ahead of next year’s more important presidential election. But the vote has been marred by missing or incomplete voter registration lists, problems with biometric verification devices that are being used for the first time and poorly trained election staff.

Ayubzada said the decision to extend the vote opened the way for abuse, with half-filled ballot boxes left open all night in some polling centers.

“From a planning point of view, it’s very difficult,” he said. “It provides an opportunity for fraud.”

ap/jlw (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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