April 15, 2018
Afghanistan has begun registering voters for the long-delayed legislative elections that are scheduled for October.
According to Abdul Badie Sayad, chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), authorities will register as many as 14 million adults at more than 7,000 registration centers across the war-torn country over the next two months.
Highlighting security concerns surrounding the election process, the official said “the main challenge is insecurity, particularly in rural areas.”
In addition to the Taliban and the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, “local powers, illegal militias and strongmen will try to interfere” in the parliamentary and district council elections, Sayad predicted.
He said shortage of female staff at polling centers could also impede participation by women in the polls.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Sayad said a television advertising campaign has been launched to persuade ordinary people that their votes will count. “We are trying very hard to increase the confidence of the public, to increase the legitimacy of the elections.”
According to an AFP report, in the capital Kabul on Saturday police stood guard at a school being used as a registration centre but only a handful of men showed up.
Mohammad Hussein, a 54-year-old shopkeeper, said he wanted to vote for a candidate “able to bring about change in this country.”
“I voted in 2010 but I made a mistake, the MP didn’t bring any change. This time I need to vote for someone who works without taking bribes.”
The October 20 polls were originally set to be held in 2015 following presidential elections the previous year, but were repeatedly pushed back due to security fears and logistical problems.
If held, candidates will contest the 249 seats in the National Assembly for five-year terms. The country will also hold regional elections in tandem in the districts across Afghanistan.
Officials have expressed hope that voter registration process will reduce the risk of ballot-box stuffing and ensure credible and fraud-free elections.
There are also concerns over how Afghans living in areas controlled or contested by militants will be able to register and vote safely.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan and toppled a ruling Taliban regime some 17 years ago. That ongoing war has failed to bring stability to the country despite the presence of thousands of foreign forces. Daesh, too, has more recently gained a foothold in Afghanistan.