On Saturday September 18, Afghanistan is to vote for the second time after the fall of the Taliban. The unstable security situation and the suspicion that polls may be rigged is creating scepticism among the citizens.
Afghan women walk past election posters of parliamentary candidates in Kabul
It is fairly obvious as to who the real winners of the elections are going to be: the printers and the advertising agencies. Every street is decorated with colourful posters of candidates and banners. However, none of the candidates seems to have come up with a clear concept of what they will be offering.
Nearly 12.5 million citizens are expected to cast their votes. 2556 candidates are contesting the 249 seats in the lower house, the Wolesi Jirga. 68 seats have been reserved for women. However, many Afghans do not expect free and fair elections.
Women on the way to a campaign meeting
Face the guns or cast a vote?
Gulam Muhammed lives in Kunduz with his family. He however has his doubts about casting his vote in one of the 5,897 polling stations:" I do not know what the Taliban will do. They want to stop the elections from taking place. I am afraid that they will use heavy weapons."
During the last elections five years ago, Kunduz was considered one of the safest places in Afghanistan. The governor of Kunduz, Mohammad Omar, thinks those days are over:" This year we are not in a position to guarantee the safety of all polling stations. Some of the outer areas are controlled by the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters." Nearly 1,200 polling stations will remain closed. The local police are of the opinion that it may be too dangerous for voters. The Taliban have threatened to attack anyone who participates in the electoral process.
Caught between the devil and the deep sea
The threat of attacks is not the only reason worrying Afghan voters. Many of them shudder to think of the presidential elections last time round. Considering the massive election fraud that happened, many of them don't know whether their votes will really make a difference. Would it then not be a better idea to stay at home and stay safe?
Farid Sarwar, who lives in Sarepol province says not participating in the voting process would mean people are indirectly making the warlords their leaders. "We should use this opportunity and try to elect the right person. We shouldn't elect someone who doesn't care about our rights and who works for his or her advantage."
According to the Independent election commission or the IEC, 17.5 million people have registered to vote although only 12.5 million people are eligible. In addition to that thousands of forged voter identity cards are making the rounds in the border areas of Pakistan.
There are certain circles whose main aim is to make the Afghanistan elections appear rigged right from the beginning- I can however assure each person, that people working in the election commission will not allow anyone to manipulate them.Nearly 7,000 Afghan and 500 external observers will ensure the highest transparency in Saturday's polls. Even the IEC believes there will be irregularities this time as well.
Author: Shamel Ratbil/ MG
Editor: Grahame Lucas