KABUL: Afghans voted yesterday in parliamentary elections overshadowed by chaotic organisation, allegations of corruption and violence that has forced a postponement of the vote in the strategic southern province of Kandahar.
With Taliban insurgents in control of large areas of the country, thousands killed in the fighting and doubts about the success of the US strategy to force the insurgents to accept peace talks by stepping up air strikes, the credibility of the Western-backed government is at stake.
Several security incidents marred the polling day, with more than 30 incidents recorded. In the northern city of Kunduz, 53 people were wounded and three killed in various incidents. In Nangarhar in the east, seven people were wounded in a blast and Ghor in the west at least 11 police were killed.
However, by early afternoon there had been no major attack. Wider election concerns have centred on technical and organisational problems with biometric voter registration equipment, polling stations not opening on time, missing election materials and delays forcing lengthy waits.
The Independent Election Commission, the body overseeing the ballot, said voting hours would be extended in some centres to cope with demand and some polling stations, which had not opened at all, would be open today.
“The biggest problem is with the biometric machines, there are some sites where they’re not working and a lot of voters have been discouraged and have gone home,” said Nasibullah Sayedi, a voter in the western city of Heart.
The Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, a civil action group, said its team of observers found almost a third of polling centres were not in a position to use the biometric equipment.
The organisational headaches come on top of fears of violence following the assassination of the police chief of Kandahar on Thursday, which forced authorities to delay the election in the province by a week. Reuters