Afghanistan: Successful election raises morale
Defying Taliban threats and heavy rain, millions of Afghans lined up at thousands of polling places across the country.
Afghans have proved their “great love for democracy, peace, and freedom,” said the Hewad (Afghanistan) in an editorial. Defying Taliban threats and heavy rain, millions of Afghans lined up at thousands of polling places across the country last week to choose a successor to two-term President Hamid Karzai. An estimated 7 million of the 12 million eligible voters turned out—2.5 million more than in the 2009 election. One third of these “happy and enthusiastic” voters were women. By exercising our right at the ballot box, we have hurled “a strong blow at the face of the enemies of peace.” Despite all their pre-election posturing, the Taliban were unable to scare voters from the polls, thanks largely to the brave work of Afghan troops and police.
There was, sadly, some violence, said the Mandegar (Afghanistan). At least 20 people, mainly Afghan security forces, were killed in 140 attacks nationwide. But the death toll was minuscule compared with the millions who participated in the vote, including “women in villages and even in rural and deprived areas.” The astonishing turnout “demonstrated that the people’s mind-set has experienced a considerable change” since the U.S. toppled the brutal Taliban regime in 2001. “Today the people want to shape their destiny.”
Violence wasn’t the only worry, said the Daily Afghanistan (Afghanistan). The people’s other main concern was fraud, and that’s an ongoing issue. Many polling stations ran out of ballot papers, and thousands of voters may have been turned away. Other votes didn’t make it to Kabul to be tallied: A van loaded with ballot boxes hit a roadside bomb in northern Afghanistan and blew up. Based on the votes that have been counted so far, it looks as if Karzai’s preferred candidate, Zalmai Rassoul, is trailing as a distant third. The top two contenders, headed for a runoff, are former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, a onetime foreign minister who lost in a disputed runoff with Karzai in 2009. Memories of the 2009 election, marred by allegations of massive ballot stuffing, still smart, and the vote count this time will have to be “carefully monitored.”
Whoever the next president is, he’ll face daunting security challenges, said Iqbal Khan in The Frontier Post (Pakistan). Half of Afghanistan’s army is addicted to drugs, and dozens of intelligence officials have been fired for their heroin habits. Worse, nearly 95 percent of military and police recruits are illiterate. Only with proper training and discipline can Afghan troops hope to stand against a resurgent Taliban. In the past, Afghan leaders have blamed security troubles on Pakistan. “Hopefully, the new Afghan leadership will look inward to resolve the grave issues rather than finding external bogeys to divert attention from its own inadequacies.”