Four Million Vote in Afghanistan Despite Threats of Violence
Despite fears of violence, four million Afghan citizens voted in Afghanistan’ s parliamentary elections on Saturday and Sunday, according to Afghanistan’ s Independent Election Commission.
It has been eight years since Afghanistan’s last parliamentary elections. Parliamentary elections were originally supposed to take place in 2015, but were postponed to June this year due to backlash over the controversial 2014 presidential election. Violence between the Afghan government and Taliban further postponed the elections to October. The next presidential election will take place in April 2019.
The four million Afghan citizens who voted represent approximately half of the nation’s total number of registered voters, 8.8 million. Out of these four million voters, approximately one million voted in Kabul. Turnout in Afghanistan’s other provinces was significantly lower — voters in 32 out of 34 provinces voted at 4,460 polling stations across the country amidst delays and violent disputes that threatened the election’s security.
Although the elections were originally intended to take place on Saturday alone, the government decided to extend them to Sunday to encourage voter participation.
Voting in Kandahar province was delayed by a week due to a Taliban-led assassination of a prominent police chief, General Abdul Razeq. A feared anti-Taliban leader, Razeq was shot while leaving a meeting with the commander of NATO forces, General Scott Miller. General Miller was uninjured in the attack. Voting in the Ghazni province was delayed without being rescheduled due to logistical issues and security threats.
In the past year, the Taliban has led a sustained campaign against elections in Afghanistan, attempting to promote chaos and erode faith in the government. Both the Taliban and ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) swore to unleash violent attacks to prevent voting at the polls this weekend.
78 people were killed at polling stations across the nation over the weekend, according to officials. The Taliban claimed to have staged 164 attacks. One of the attacks was a suicide bombing in Kabul, which killed 18 people late Saturday night.
President Ashraf Ghani addressed the nation after voting closed on Sunday evening with an optimistic message, thanking those who turned out to vote despite the issues that plagued polling stations.
“By casting your votes, you sent a clear message to the world that you do not want violence, you demonstrated your determination through democracy. You proved to the Taliban that this nation will not surrender to anyone," Ghani said.