Afghans shut out by polling station chaos try to vote again

Many centres remain shut for ‘security reasons’ as some 120 incidents of violence reported

Election observers watch the counting of ballots during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday. Photograph: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters.

Election observers watch the counting of ballots during parliamentary elections at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday. Photograph: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters.

 

Afghans unable to vote in Saturday’s parliamentary election after hundreds of polling stations failed to open were given another chance to cast their ballot on Sunday after voting times were extended despite security threats and warnings of fraud.

Around three million Afghans voted on Saturday, officials said but across the country there were complaints that polling stations remained closed, often because staff failed to turn up.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan issued a statement saying it was encouraged by the high numbers who voted on Saturday, many of whom endured long delays due to technical and organisational problems.

“Those eligible voters who were not able to cast their vote, due to technical issues, deserve the right to vote,” it said.

The Sunday extension was made for 401 polling stations and 500 extra officials were deployed but only 253 actually opened, with the remainder closed for security reasons, Abdul Bade Sayad, chairman of the election commission told reporters.

Armed men loyal to local power brokers in some provinces entered polling stations by force and broke election materials which caused serious irregularities, said Sayad.

Afghan police guard a checkpoint during the parliamentary election in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday. Photograph: Omar Sobhani/Reuters.
Afghan police guard a checkpoint during the parliamentary election in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday. Photograph: Omar Sobhani/Reuters.

Manipulate

Many independent election observers, seen as an important check on efforts to manipulate the result, have been reluctant to work, fearing militant attacks. On Sunday, the bodies of four observers were found in the northern province of Balkh after they had been abducted a day earlier and shot.

“It is not an ideal scenario,” one foreign security official said, noting the extra pressure placed on already stretched security forces which have been on high alert following Taliban warnings that they would target the election.

More than 120 incidents involving hand grenades or improvised explosive devices were reported on Saturday and scores of people were killed or wounded across the country. In one incident, 15 people were killed by a suicide bomber who tried to enter a polling station in Kabul, but overall the violence was not as bad as some officials had feared.

According to United Nations figures, 36 people were killed and some 130 wounded across the country on Saturday.

Meanwhile, other violence underlined the dangers throughout Afghanistan. Eleven people, including six children, were killed early on Sunday, when their car hit a roadside bomb in the eastern province of Nangarhar. It was unclear if the bomb was related to the elections. - Reuters