Friday, October 19, 2018 12:02:49 PM
Afghans Preparing for Parliamentary Elections

Afghanistan is all set to go to parliamentary polls on Oct. 20 as candidates rolled back their campaign posters on Thursday in line with the electoral rules in the mountainous country marred by decades of conflict.

The intense 20-day campaign transformed the landscape of major urban centers across the country with the candidates placing their posters, banner and billboards all over main roads, markets and other public places with pledges of a better Afghanistan.

More than 2,500 people, including 418 women, are competing for the 249 seats in Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga, lower house of the parliament.

The country’s election commission directed the candidates to end all sorts of campaign Wednesday midnight and allowed an estimated 9 million voters to deliberate on their campaign pledges before heading to the polling stations on Saturday.

Discarding rumor of delay, Syed Hafeez Hashmi, spokesman for the election commission, told Anadolu Agency the polls would go ahead as scheduled.

“Those spreading such negative rumors about the delay actually want to harm people’s trust in the electoral process and tamper with this national process”, Hashmi said.

According to the spokesman, all electoral material has been dispatched to 33 provinces across the country, and the biometric voter registration devices would also reach all polling stations by Friday. 

Transparency

On the backdrop of a troubled presidential elections in 2014 that almost brought the country on the verge of yet another civil war, Afghans remained largely skeptical about the prospects for the elections that were actually due three years ago.

Underlining the irregularities in the past polls, Dr. Nezam Uddin, head of the Peace and Human Rights Organization, told Anadolu Agency the Kabul government’s measures to use biometric verification of voters is indeed a positive step forward towards transparency and democracy.

“There is no doubt that the full transparency of the Wolesi Jirga elections cannot be guaranteed. But, what has raised hopes and optimism is that on top of so many challenges, the government has finally managed to pull the whole process and ensure the elections finally take place,” he added.

The Kabul government has acquired thousands of biometric verification devices from the German firm, DERMALOG Identification Systems, based on a state-to-state contract.

According to a statement by the government, up to 22,000 devices and a central biometric system cost the Afghan government a total of €18 million ($21 million).

It was only after procurement of these devises that the Grand National Coalition of Afghanistan -- the coalition of leading political parties in the government and opposition -- end their boycott and closure of election commission’s offices in different provinces.

Meanwhile, electoral watchdogs remain skeptical about rigging in the process. In a study conducted by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), many Kabul citizens said they plan to take part in the upcoming elections despite their general distrust, pessimism and the overall deteriorating security.

“Each phase of this election has so far been uneasy and people are not satisfied in most cases with the performance of their lawmakers and the election commission. Despite all this, we have witnessed a vibrant campaigning period and Afghans are taking part in the process to strengthen democracy,” Orzala Nemat, AREU director told a news conference on Thursday. 

Security threats

The insecurity across the country has not sparred the election process either.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed its concern over the level of violence during the election campaign which included intimidation and attacks on candidates, their agents and supporters.

A leading Afghan politician and former presidential adviser on military affairs got killed in a Taliban-claimed explosion in Helmand province on Wednesday.

Abdul Jabbar Qaharmaan, a prominent candidate for the forthcoming Wolesi Jirga (lower house), got killed in a blast caused by explosives hidden under a chair in his electoral office in provincial capital Lashkargah city.

Last week, at least 22 people were killed and more than 30 others wounded in a blast at an electoral rally in Takhar province.

On Oct. 9, another candidate for the forthcoming elections and eight of his supporters got killed in a suicide attack in southern Helmand province, while 13 people were killed and more than 20 wounded in a similar attack in Nangarhar province on Oct. 2.

According to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, the foreign troops would not be directly engaged in election related security and the Afghan forces would remain in charge on the voting day nationwide.

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