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Delayed Kandahar vote goes ahead

October 27, 2018

Security has been tightened and major roads closed to allow the postponed parliamentary election to proceed without violence. Kandahar was the scene of a high-profile Taliban attack more than a week ago.

Kandahar Wahl in Afghanistan - Bürger wählen trotz Sicherheitsrisikos
Image: DW/I. Spesalai

Legislative elections took place on Saturday in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province after voting was delayed by a week following an attack by the Taliban.

Long queues formed outside polling centers in the deeply conservative provincial capital amid tight security following the killing of a powerful police chief and a local intelligence chief on October 18.

The Kandahar governor's office tweeted that polling centers in the province had opened at 7 a.m. local time (0230 UTC) and assured people that serious security measures were in place to ensure the safety of voters.

Election and security officials faced pressure to avoid a repeat of last weekend's debacle that saw polling throughout the rest of the country disrupted by violence and technical issues.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) was forced to extend voting by a day when election material failed to arrive at scores of polling stations. 

Authorities restricted the use of cars and motorbikes during voting hours and as voting centers closed on Saturday, there were no reports of violence.

People queue to vote in the Kandahar election
People queue to vote in the Kandahar electionImage: DW/I. Spesalai

A new biometric identification system introduced to stem fraud allegations instead created massive confusion and caused delays lasting hours, frustrating voters and challenging the credibility of the polls.

The Taliban also conducted a series of rocket and bomb attacks across the country during last weekend's polls that left 50 people dead.

Read more: Iranian support of Afghan Taliban targeted by new US sanctions

More technical issues

Similar technical issues were already evident in Kandahar earlier on Saturday, and many polling sites in the city remained closed despite assurances from IEC deputy spokeswoman Kobra Rezaei on Friday that "we are absolutely ready."

"I have been standing outside the polling center since 6 a.m., but it still hasn't opened," university student Mohammad, who uses only one name, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Major roads throughout southern Kandahar were closed nearly 24 hours before polls opened, to stop vehicle-born explosive devices from entering the province, said the provincial governor's spokesman Aziz Ahmed Azizi.

According to election commission figures, more than 522,000 people have registered to vote at the 173 polling stations across Kandahar.

A woman casts her vote
A woman casts her voteImage: DW/S. Tanha

The first parliamentary elections since 2010 are being held against a backdrop of near-daily attacks by the Taliban.

The US-backed government is rife with corruption and many Afghans have said they do not expect the elections to be fair. Yet millions of people have defied extremist threats and waited, often for hours, to cast their votes.

Read more: Can religious leaders help keep Kabul's water flowing?

Covering the Afghan election

Much-needed reforms

Hopes remain high that the election could lead to speedy reforms of Afghanistan's 249-seat parliament, replacing many traditional warlords and the politically corrupt with a younger, more educated generation of politicians.

Wote counting is under way and the IEC is due to release preliminary results on November 10.

Voting in the south-eastern province of Ghazni has not yet taken place due to a local dispute about the division of constituencies.

The vote is being carefully observed in Washington, where the US military is still seeking an exit strategy after 17 years of war that have cost more than $900 billion (€788 billion) and claimed the lives of more than 2,400 US service personnel.

mm/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa)

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