Afghanistan held their elections for the 250 seats in the Afghani Parliament this past weekend. This election has been closely monitored by international media and elections commissions as the Taliban has continued to threaten violence against citizens and the Afghan government. The Taliban said this parliamentary election was "an American project from start to finish.” The primary focus around this election has been the substantial amount of violence the Taliban has been inflicting on innocent civilians, government officials and potential new parliamentary members. These fears of violence were especially raised after the killing of General Abdul Raziq.
General Raziq was a prominent police chief who was shot dead by a rogue bodyguard in the Afghan province of Kandahar. American General Scott Miller was on scene during the attack, but was able to escape unhurt. The central Afghan government announced that voting in Kandahar would be delayed a week to ensure that the situation is secure and safe enough for citizens to vote. The Taliban said that General Raziq was a “brutal police chief”. and claimed responsibility for the attack. General Raziq was a vocal opponent of the Taliban, and this marks the first time that since the 2001 US-led military intervention that a top commander has been killed in such an incident. Raziq was a general of a province with an especially heavy Taliban presence, and some fear that this incident may hinder the US-Afghan campaign against the Taliban. Besides the overall war against the Taliban, the death of General Raziq had installed fear into many Afghani’s who were headed to the polls for the elections.
Official reports of voters for the election marked that somewhere between 3 to more than 4 million showed up out of 8.8 million eligible to vote. The voting took place on October 20th and 21st, as the government decided to extend voting one more day due to security threats by the Taliban. While a massive amount of people braved the fear of violence and turned up to the polls, the election was not without hiccups. This is the first election in eight years in Afghanistan, as the election has been pushed back for three additional years due to the ongoing Taliban conflict. Over the weekend, at least 36 people were killed and 130 were injured due to violence related to the election. This includes 15 people who were killed during a suicide bombing at a polling station in Kabul, three killed and 50 injured at a bombing in the Kunduz and another four killed who were heading to vote in the Balkh province. The Afghan government deployed 70,000 security forces across the country to polling stations to help fight off any Taliban insurgency.
This was the first election in Afghanistan with a biometric system in an attempt to fight voter fraud. Over 22,000 machines were deployed to fight vote rigging. However, many of the biometric machines at the polling centers ended up causing problems by not functioning properly. 15 men were caught trying to break biometric devices prior to the election. Even with the more than 20,000 polling stations set up around the country, those waiting to vote faced technical issues more often than not. Some polling stations were closed due to staff not showing up. A third of polling stations were closed due to the government unable to guarantee safety for voters.
Even with the violence and hiccups in voting, many are considering this election a victory. This weekend finally allowed for Afghan citizens to vote in a long awaited election for their parliament, which currently has a 9.6% approval rating. More than 400 women are running for positions in the parliament, which is a first for Afghanistan. There has also been a large amount of young people standing for election. 26 year old TOLO TV presenter Maryam Samaa who is running for a spot in the parliament empathized this by saying "It's a responsibility every human being must take on. Everyone has to question the society around them: Why is there so much inequity, and what is my role in reforming that society?” Many have been frustrated at the lack of proper representation within the parliament for women and young people, and it is expected that this election will change that.
This election was one of bravery by the Afghan people. Every single one of the 4 million people who voted faced the risk of violence, but resisted the threats posed by the Taliban to better their nation and democracy. For many of those in line to vote, the phrase of the day was “We won’t let the Taliban win”. Most Afghans are desperate for better lives, jobs, education and finally an end to the war with the Taliban. Afghani’s are fed up with the billions spent, and the thousands of lives lost over the war with the Taliban. This is the opportunity for Afghans to take to the polls and change the future of their nation, one that is tapped to one biggest growing economies in Asia. If the conflict with the Taliban continues, then it will stunt that potential but here the people have the opportunity to decide their future. We will know for sure when the outcome of the election is announced some time in mid-November.