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Afghans return to vote in violence-marred election

October 21, 2018

Technical issues persisted on the second day of the violence-marred parliamentary elections. Around 3 million Afghans voted defying calls from the Taliban militant group to boycott the ballot.

Afghan election workers count ballot papers during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Kabul.
Image: Reuters/M. Ismail

Hundreds of polling stations opened in Afghanistan Sunday for a second day of voting for constituents unable to cast their ballot on Saturday due to deadly violence and technical glitches but over 100 polling booths remained shut due to security threats.

A roadside bomb killed nearly a dozen civilians, including several children, in the eastern Nangarhar province several hours after polling stations opened Sunday for the first parliamentary election held in the country since 2010.

Good turnout despite violence

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani thanked citizens for their participating during a speech carried on state TV.

"Afghans did not only show their enemies that they would not surrender to any threats or warnings, but that they also have the power and will to defeat their enemies," Ghani said, referring to threats by the Taliban and "Islamic State" affiliate warning voters against casting ballots.

Independent Election Commission (IEC) officials put turnout for the election at about 4 million of 8.8 million registered voters across 27 provinces, despite many polling stations failing to open due to staff not showing up to open the centers.

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.

'People deserve right to vote'

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan said it was encouraged by the high numbers who voted 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 was supposed to take place in 401 voting centers, including 45 in Kabul, but 148 of them remained closed due to security threats.

The results of the vote will not be released before mid-November and final results will not be out until December.

Problems persist

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.

The technical issues that affected polling on the first day persisted Sunday. 

Election workers still struggled to use biometric verification devices and voter rolls were "either incomplete or non-existent," Electoral Complaints Commission spokesman Ali Reza Rohani told reporters.

"This does not bode well for next year," Afghanistan Analysts Network co-director Thomas Ruttig said. "The IEC has clearly shown its lack of capacity to run acceptable and transparent elections, instead publishing doctored figures." 

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

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Covering the Afghan election