Afghanistan election: Polling ‘to be extended’ amid chaos

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Media captionAfghan “war on terror” generation votes

Voting in Afghanistan’s long-awaited parliamentary elections will reportedly be extended by a day after delays at polling stations and several attacks.

Some constituencies will remain open on Sunday, officials said, amid technical problems with a recently introduced biometric verification system.

Blasts have also been reported in the capital Kabul and other places.

Violence in the run-up to the vote caused 30% of all polling stations to shut and left 10 candidates dead.

Voting in Kandahar province has been delayed by a week after the assassination of a top police chief, General Abdul Raziq, on Thursday, in an attack claimed by Taliban militants.

More than 2,500 candidates, including many women, are vying for 250 seats in the legislative elections, which are being held more than three years late.

Both the Taliban and Islamic State group have vowed to disrupt the polls.

Why the delays?

Technical and organisational problems stopped voters from casting their ballots at a number of polling stations, according to government officials.

There have been technical hitches with Afghanistan’s new biometric voter registration equipment and in the central province of Uruzgan, 15 men were reportedly arrested for trying to break biometric devices because of delays.

The Independent Election Commission says most stations opened their doors late because teachers employed to supervise the voting process failed to turn up on time, according to AFP.

What about security?

Polling day has already seen a number of violent attacks, with casualties reported:

  • At least three people were killed and more than 30 others wounded in Kabul, acting health ministry spokesman Mohibullah Zeer told AFP news agency
  • According to the Associated Press, two police officers were wounded trying to defuse an improvised explosive device near a polling station in north-west of the capital
  • Taliban militants ambushed and killed four policemen in central Ghor province, AP reports
  • Three rockets were fired into the northern city of Kunduz, police officials say

Security is not the only issue threatening the vote. Past elections have been marred by corruption and fraud, with cases of ballot box stuffing, multiple voting and voter intimidation all documented.

Polling day – key numbers

Nearly nine million voters are entitled to cast their ballots in the vote, which began at 07:00 local time (02:30 GMT).

Voting had been due to end at 11:30 GMT but the election commission now says it will continue until Sunday in centres which were unable to open on Saturday.

Only about 5,000 polling stations of the initially planned 7,000 are operational because of security concerns.

The Taliban have urged people to boycott what they call “fake” elections. And Islamic State militants in Afghanistan have followed suit.

About 54,000 members of the security forces have been deployed to try to ensure the elections pass off peacefully.

Preliminary results are expected 20 days after the election, on 10 November.

Why do the elections matter?

Most Afghans are desperate for a better life, jobs, education and an end to the war with the Taliban.

For the country’s foreign partners, seeing a flourishing democracy would be the return they’re seeking after many years of investment, billions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost in more than a decade of fighting.

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Media captionAfghanistan elections: Running an election in a war-torn country

Many candidates are young and well-educated. They are promising to help deliver change in the conflict-torn country.

But many Afghans have come to view all politicians as corrupt and ineffective, correspondents say.

The polls should have been held when the current assembly’s five-year term ended in 2015. But the standoff after the disputed 2014 presidential election changed all that, bringing the country to the brink of civil war.

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Media captionNaheed Farid, Afghan MP: “Some women want to wear make-up”

The poll is also seen as a test ahead of the all-important presidential elections due in April 2019.

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