Election Tests Security Capabilities Of Afghan Government

KABUL -- Afghans started voting early on October 20 in parliamentary
elections that are testing the government’s ability to provide security
across the country.

Originally scheduled for 2015, the vote was delayed for three years amid
disputes over electoral reforms and because of the instability
following NATO’s handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces
at the end of 2014.

The Afghan government wants to show it can conduct the vote safely and
transparently despite ongoing fighting between government forces and
militants in at least 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

It is deploying more than 50,000 Afghan police and troops to protect nearly 19,000 polling stations across the country.

Candidates, campaign rallies, and senior security officials have been
targeted in deadly attacks by Taliban and Islamic State (IS) extremists –
including suicide attacks, motorcycle bombings, and drive-by shootings.

During the three-week campaign period, two candidates and 34 civilians were killed in militant attacks.

Eight other candidates were killed by militants during the run-up to
campaigning, and the fate of two abducted candidates remains unknown.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission decided on October 19 to
delay voting by one week in the southern province of Kandahar because of
the killing of the provincial police chief, General Abdul Raziq.

Election Commission spokesman Hafizullah Hashimi said the people of
Kandahar were “morally not ready to vote” so soon after Raziq and the
provincial intelligence chief were killed on October 18 by a rogue
bodyguard of the provincial governor.

Elections also won’t be held on October 20 in 10 Afghan districts in
different parts of the country that are under Taliban control.

They include five districts in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand
Province, two in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, one in the
southern province of Zabul, and districts in the northern provinces of
Baghlan and Sar-e Pul.

Voting also has been postponed indefinitely in Ghazni Province amid a
dispute over how to map out voting precincts to achieve more balanced
ethnic representation.

In Afghanistan’s last parliamentary election, held in 2010, candidates
from the ethnic Hazara minority won all of Ghazni’s parliamentary seats
because voting wasn’t held in Taliban-controlled areas where many ethnic
Tajiks and majority Pashtuns live.

Voting for district councils across the country also was supposed to
take place on October 20, but has been postponed amid threats by the
Taliban to attack candidates and security forces.

The Independent Election Commission says the decision to delay voting
for district-level posts was made because a sufficient number of male
and female candidates stepped forward only in about 10 percent of the

Altogether, there are more than 2,500 candidates contesting 249 seats in
Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, known as the Wolesi Jirga. Of
those candidates, 417 are women.

Hundreds of those running are young, first-time candidates who include reporters, entrepreneurs, and educators.

But no major opposition party is poised to win enough seats to contest
the national unity government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief
Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.

Most candidates for parliament are running as independents.

Out of 8.8 million registered voters, about two-thirds are men and one-third are women.


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