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Afghan Poll Already “Stolen”: Analysts



August 16, 2009

KABUL — Even before it kicks off, Afghanistan's showcase presidential election is likely "sold" and "stolen", analysts warned, stressing that a growing sense of disillusion amongst voters in the war-torn country is adding to the polls’ severe crisis of credibility.

"August 20 will not guarantee free, fair democracy here," Wadir Safi, of Kabul University's law and political sciences faculty, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Sunday, August 16.

"It will be forged and fake democracy and elections."

Experts say that concerns about vote buying, ballot stuffing, ghost registration and backroom deals have added to the fears over the legitimacy of the upcoming election.

Safi believes that the ballots are to be "sold" and "stolen".

He contended that "all 34 provinces of Afghanistan are under the grip of warlords" who have traded the votes of their constituents for a stake in government.

Waheed Mujda, an author and analyst, agrees that serious credibility problems are marring the elections primarily due to fraud.

He cited reports that up to 750,000 people were registered to vote in troubled southern Helmand, far more than would be reasonably expected in a place "where the population is estimated at one million."

Independent monitors have complained of detecting multiple registrations at 44 percent of registration centers.

Some say the election rigging is already happening in southern provinces where conservative Pashtun men are allowed to register women voters by proxy.

The International Crisis Group has warned in a June report of over-registration in some provinces.

In the eastern Nuristan, which had a population of around 130,000, some 443,000 voters were registered, the ICG report revealed.

Afghanistan's 17 million eligible voters are to cast ballots in some 7,000 voting centers or 28,500 smaller voting stations in 34 provinces and 356 districts.

Forty-one candidates, including incumbent Hamid Karzai and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, are contesting the presidential vote.

The presidential vote is the second since the 2001 US invasion and is seen as part of a Western strategy to move Afghanistan towards democracy after decades of war.


Experts believe that the lack of transparency has teamed with a widely-expected low turnout to undermine the poll’s credibility.

Mohammed Faridon Sorush, professor of law and political science at Herat University, said there is widespread voter disillusionment among Afghans who have lost faith in politics as they watched the Karzai government bringing little improvement to the war-ravaged country.

"Last time people were very optimistic about the elections and having an elected president," Sorush said. "They were looking for someone to be an elected president and serve the good of the people.

"They wanted to be a part of politics in Afghanistan."

But this time, he added, round many apathetic Afghans are likely to stay away from the polls, he predicts.

Mujda, the author, also foresees a scarce turnout of voters in a country most of whom are illiterate, living in impoverished rural regions and having little understanding of democracy.

"What we have as democracy is something from outside," he added.

"It's something foreigners have decided people here should have, not the Afghans."

Analysts also believe he Afghanis will shun the ballot boxes out of fear.

"There are many suicide attacks (so) people are afraid," says Sorush.

Just on Saturday, a suicide bomb, claimed by Taliban, shook Kabul as it exploded at the entrance to the headquarters of the international military organization (NATO) killing seven Afghans and injuring almost 100 people.

Taliban has threatened to attack polling stations in their bid to force Afghans to boycott the presidential elections.

Nader Nadery, head of monitoring body Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, shares the fears that people could simply decide to stay away from the ballot fearing for their safety.

"A prerequisite for free and fair elections is a secure environment."

:: Article nr. 57024 sent on 17-aug-2009 05:04 ECT


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