Another rigged election in Afghanistan, 14 killed in poll violence

Afghanistan Saturday Sept 18 voted in the election for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament. While officials claimed the ballot was a success, fourteen people were killed in sporadic violence on a day marked by large scale intimidation of voters and other malpractices, making theelection a travesty of democracy. The poll further discredits of President Hamid Karzai, whose re-election last year was marred by allegations of widespread fraud.

The election took place under the shadow of the Obama administration’s military “surge,” which has increased the number of foreign troops in the country to more than 140,000. Civilian and military deaths are at record levels, as coalition forces push into Taliban-controlled areas.

The election took place under the shadow of the Obama administration’s military “surge,” which has increased the number of foreign troops in the country to more than 140,000. Civilian and military deaths are at record levels, as coalition forces push into Taliban-controlled areas.

As a result of the escalating violence and the extent of Taliban influence, voting did n’t take place at all in many areas of the southern and eastern provinces, such as Helmand and Kandahar. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has said that around 1,019, or 15 percent, of an initially planned 6,835 polling centres couldnot not open due to a lack of security, effectively disenfranchising millions of people. The Taliban has opposed the election and vowed to attack polling booths, and foreign and Afghan forces, to disrupt the election. Fearing attacks, the United Nations Mission to Afghanistan has withdrawn 300, or close to one third, of its permanent international staff.

The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), which is responsible for most of the monitoring, said its representatives covered 65 percent of polling stations. According to the Guardian, nearly all foreign monitoring organisations “had scaled back their efforts to monitor voting compared with their presence during the August 2009 presidential election”.

In an indication of the ballot stuffing being prepared, the IEC revealed this week that 3,000 fake voter registration cards had been seized in Ghazni.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described the election as “an important milestone on [Afghanistan’s] road to becoming a full and rightful member of the community of democratic nations”.

Such assertions are farcical. The Karzai regime’s “preparations” have included disqualifying dozens of political opponents through a “vetting committee” ostensibly set up to remove candidates with links to illegal armed groups. A commissioner from the Electoral Complaints Commission, an Afghan government body with UN backing, told the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN): “We know the list [of disqualified candidates] is full of innocent people and not of warlords”. The AAN quoted an IEC official who said vetting had been “hijacked by various ministries and state officials”.

Warlords and militia leaders dominate most provinces that are not under the control of the Taliban or other anti-occupation groups. In June, dozens of people protested in Mazar-i-Sharif against the inclusion of Haji Mohammad Rahim and Gul Mohammad Pahlavan on the list of candidates for the northern provinces of Sar-e Pol and Faryab. Rahim is a former commander of Jamiat-e Islami, another faction involved in the murderous struggle over Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Pahlavan was a leading commander in the Jombesh militia, controlled by former Northern Alliance commander General Abdul Rashid Dostum. Dostum’s forces were responsible for massacring hundreds of Taliban prisoners in Mazar-i-Sharif in 2001.

Karzai government has sought to hold peace talks with the Taliban, and other opposition groups such as the Hezb-e Islami; but these offers have so far been rejected. For now, the US is backing Karzai’s appeals for negotiations with insurgents.

Karzai government has sought to hold peace talks with the Taliban, and other opposition groups such as the Hezb-e Islami; but these offers have so far been rejected. For now, the US is backing Karzai’s appeals for negotiations with insurgents. Some of Karzai’s former allies, however, are expressing open hostility toward him and any such negotiations. Hazara warlord Mohammad Mohaqeq, who supported Karzai’s 2009 re-election campaign, told the Wall Street Journal this month that he felt “betrayed by the president” and accused Karzai of pursuing “the Talibanisation of Afghanistan”.

Uzbek warlord Mawlawi Khabir, a leading figure in the Jombesh party, denounced what he called Karzai’s “clear ethnic agenda … to convince the Taliban and other fellow Pashtuns that he is on their side”.

Final election results will not be released until October 30.