Political Landscape

Elections 2014 (29): The second round election day in snapshots from the provinces


A proud voter in Aibak, Samangan. Across the country, voter turnout seemed to have been lower than during the first round. Locals attributed that to no provincial council elections taking place, the hot weather, the planting season having started, but also polling centres being too far away from home and fear of violence. Photo: AAN

How did the second round election day go? After our collection of voices from the provinces on the day before the vote (read here) as well as on the first round election day (see here), we continued to listen to our Afghan friends, analysts and acquaintances across the country. We asked them if they had been as eager to vote as many of them had been during the first round. We also asked them to describe what they saw in terms of voter turnout, atmosphere, fraud – or the absence of it – and what the security situation was like. Here is what they said, in their own words.

Faryab, civil society activist

In the early morning, people’s participation in the election was good and one could see from their faces how eager they were to vote. One thing that I liked in particular while visiting some of the polling centres in Maimana, the capital of Faryab, was the unity among the people at the polling centres. I saw supporters of both candidates speaking in a friendly manner to each other – they all just wished for the same thing, a peaceful Afghanistan. Security seemed tight. However, at 8.30 in the morning, a suicide attack happened at the door of the polling centre in the veterinarian institute in district four; five people were injured. But after 15 minutes the polling centre opened again and people came back to vote. Another incident took place around 10.30 am in the Khorasan High School. I heard, that the trouble had initially started because two candidates’ observers started fighting, but later a provincial council member and local commander from Gurziwan district, Qomandan Nawid, also joined in and fired bullets, scattering people and creating chaos; it is not clear why he did that, though. Non-official sources told me that four people were injured. As for the districts – we don’t know yet how the elections went there. I heard that some rockets had been fired at a polling centre in Ghormach district and that a few people were injured, but official sources haven’t said anything about it yet.

Altogether, the voter turnout in the city seems lower than in the previous round whereas the behaviour of the IEC staff seems better. There are no complaints about IEC workers in Maimana – at least as of now.  But of course there could have been problems in the districts.

Bagrami district, east Kabul, AAN analyst

Visiting polling centres in Bagrami district in east Kabul, almost everyone, including IEC officials, said turnout was well up this time compared to the first round. In one centre, there were lines of voters waiting, men and women. Before noon, at several polling centres, ballot papers for men ran out and voters were extremely unhappy.

Musa Shafiq High School visited at 12.25: ballot papers in the three male stations had run out by 10.45. The head of the centre said he had informed the IEC of the probable shortage at 9.30. Men said they had been queuing, some for up to three hours, and made angry allegations of an anti-Ghani conspiracy. While we were there, extra papers arrived, 600 each for the three male stations. The men were not mollified, saying many of the “crowds” had got discouraged and left.

Hussainkheil High School, visited 11.50: papers for men (four stations) were just running out. The head of the centre said he had alerted the IEC to the probably shortage at 10.00.

Abdul Shukur Reshad High School visited 11.15: men’s papers for three stations had also already run out and there were queues for the two women’s stations.

This observer was left to wonder how early was it feasible for the ballots to run out. Bearing in mind that the second round voting – with only two presidential candidates and no outlandishly large provincial council ballot paper to deal with – should be much quicker. Is it reasonable for 600 ballot papers to be gone through in four to five hours or should the speed raise suspicions of possible early morning ballot stuffing?

Herat, journalist

I think if the participation of Heratis in the election has not increased, it has at least not decreased, as many had expected, with no provincial council elections taking place this time. I saw many women and girls, in particular, lining up to vote until the late afternoon.

The performance of the IEC was quite good this time compared to the first round. We haven’t heard any large complaints about their work, yet. There were some smaller issues, though. For example we heard that in Guzara district, in the village Ziaratja, a female IEC worker, Sima, took cards from female voters, vanishing with them for unknown purposes, before returning them 15 minutes later. This is now under investigation.

As journalists, we were asked not to report any violence at least until six pm tonight, and I think this was good. It helped to strengthen people’s voting moral. Everyone was quite concerned about ethnic conflicts in Herat; the province has many Pashtuns and many Tajiks and both Ghani and Abdullah have supporters here. So far, though, it stayed calm, as far as I heard – also in the districts.

Bamyan, AAN analyst

Voting started in sunny Bamyan city at seven in the morning, with many voters waiting in queues at the boys high school in the centre of Bamyan, one of the busiest polling centres in the province. However, already after an hour, the lines had become shorter as the voters got fewer. This was partly due to the faster voting process – with only two candidates to vote for and no provincial council elections the ’paperwork’ was easier to deal with. But many voters also came in the late afternoon, still remembering the long hours they had had to wait in the first round when they had turned up early. In addition, the IEC had established an additional four polling stations to avoid voters having to wait.

Elsehwere in the provincial capital, the turnout seemed altogether lower than in the first round, though. In the polling centres of Topchi, the Sumaara Boys High School, the Sayedabad Girls High School, Tayboti, Kart-e Sohal, Madrassa Shina and the Shirin Hazara Girls High School, significantly fewer ballot papers could be seen in the semi-opaque boxes. At the same time, more women than men seemed out and about to vote. There was only little information about the turnout in the districts available by the afternoon of election day, but it seemed, from the first inoffical and so far unconfirmed accounts that in the districts where people hadn’t had a chance to vote in the first round because of bad weather or ballot shortages, the turnout was higher (for example in Panjab and Waras) while in districts, where people had had ample opportunity to vote in the first round (the centre, Yakawlang, Shibar, Saighan), they seemed less enthusiastic.

Locals gave different reasons for the lower turnout. Farmers told AAN that they could not go to the polling centre because they had to work on the potato farms. In addition, there were fewer vehicles available to take people from remote areas to polling centres; provincial council candidates had provided many for the first round. People also said, „It will take a long time to go to the polling centre, and then there might be ballot shortages again, so that we don’t even get to vote – I don’t even try.“

Secrurity and otherwise, it was calm. According to unconfirmed reports, a police commander was killed and two of his bodyguards were injured in Panjab district, but so far, no-one knows why. Policemen who spoke to AAN said it was unlikely that it had been Taleban as there were none in this area. “Maybe it was a personal issue or criminals,“ they said. After massive ballot shortages had been reported in the first round, the IEC seemed well prepared this time, at least in Bamyan city. Ballot shortages only occurred in the Kart-e Solah Girls High School and  the IEC established new polling stations there within half an hour. The election observation managers of both teams told AAN that so far (by mid afternoon) they had not noticed large cases of fraud.

Badakhshan, AAN Analyst

Observers and locals all felt turnout in the city was lower than last time. In the first round, there had been long lines of voters in most of the polling centres and ballot papers ran out near to noon. In the second round, in many centres, there was no queuing after eight in the morning, just an hour after voting started. This was the case in Sayef Shahid High School, the Faculty of Medicine and the Imam Bokhari Mosque, Kokcha High School and Neswan 2 High School in the old city. Work was one reason why people, who voted last time, said they were not voting this time: they were too busy, they said. Some also expressed a lack of trust in how their votes were treated; some Abdullah supporters believed he had won the first round outright, but ‘the foreigners’ had not wanted him to win, so the election had gone to a second round. Other people spoke about fraud in the first round as showing their votes were ineffective. People also said there had been little second round campaigning or encouragement by the teams this time to get the vote out. However, it seemed that proportionally, women were coming out to vote at about the same level as men.

Sar-e Pul, journalist

I don’t think that the voter turnout in the second round is lower in Sar-e Pul than in the first round. From the morning until now, we saw a steady stream of voters in most polling centres, although the local IEC even added to the number of centres we had in the first round.

Security is good now and Afghan forces try hard to stay in control. Last night, at 10.30, anti-government forces launched an operation in Sar-e Pul city and in Kohistan district, and the fighting went on until four in the morning, but our soldiers succeeded.

In the morning, I saw a very old woman who needed a stick to walk, wandering towards a polling centre; it brought tears to my eyes. I asked her, “Mother, why do you go out and vote at your age and in these insecure times? You could stay at home.” And she replied, “you see, I do not have much time left in this world, but what compelled me to come and vote is that I feel responsible for my children’s future. Their future depends on this vote. I do not want my children to experience a life as hard as I did.”

I noticed some violations of the electoral laws, but not very much, at least in the city. For example, I saw a man who voted using three cards. But I did hear about fraud in the districts. In some, such as as Balkhab or Kohistanat, where women rarely go out and vote, observers of the two candidates divided the female polling centres up between themselves and filled the ballot boxes. I also heard complaints when I talked to one of the observers from the Ghani team. He said that, last night, in mosques, men had distributed pieces of paper apparently showing Ashraf Ghani and his Christian wife together with the pope.

Kandahar, AAN analyst

Voting started in Kandahar city on time in almost all polling centres. Compared with the first round, voting went much quicker. For example, when I visited a polling centre in Aino Mena at 8.30, most of the stations had already received more than 100 voters. In the same place, at the same time in the first round, it had been fewer than 50. I also saw no long queues outside polling centres of the sort we had on 5 April. The same was true for both male and female polling stations. The speed of the process was possibly the main reason for keeping the queues short. It was just as well as waiting in line today would have been unbearable in the summer heat.

To address the problem ballot shortages seen in the first round, IEC officials had added many new stations to the city. However, there were again shortages today, in multiple places, mostly in the centre of Kandahar. In the Zarghona Ana High School, I saw the male polling station run out of ballots at 10.30. The same happed half an hour later in Aino Mena’s polling centre in Sayed Jamaluddin High School, again in the men’s polling station. However, within less than half an hour, new ballots arrived. Contrary to some reporting, there was no shortage of ballots in the female polling station in Aino Mena, at least by midday. IEC officials had earlier told me it was unlikely that the shortage of ballot papers would be a problem this time. Speaking to the local IEC officials around midday, it seems turnout had been higher than in the first round.

There was still a problem with IEC workers not instructing voters properly, though. Many ballot papers have been put in boxes un-folded, for example, and one could see, upon close inspection, that many had also not been ticked properly.

The city is much quieter than in April. Many young men are playing cards in the shadow of trees, on the grassed area in the middle of roads. A small explosion was heard in the morning. The police said “two suicide bombers” had thrown a grenade in the Shekapur Darwaza area, near the centre of town and had then run away and taken shelter in a building. The police had not launched an operation against them, saying it would cause panic and fear among the residents and prevent people from going out to vote. One centre in that area was still closed, said IEC officials, and the residents were not coming out to vote.

Samangan, AAN analyst

Election day in Samangan went fairly well, although, despite strict security measures by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), peopel said the voter turnout was visibly lower. Those who did not go and vote said that this was because there were no provincial council elections this time, but also because of the hot weather, field work that was due and security threats. In Hazrat Sultan district, locals complained that the polling centres were located too far from their villages. Haji Bai Murad, a local farmer, who had walked several kilometres, crossing a river with no bridge to cast his vote, told AAN that the rest of his family had also wanted to vote, but had found it too hot to walk the distance. They had participated in the first round because a provincial council member had helped them with transportation. Many villagers, with their livestock, have also already left for the summer pastures in far flung areas.

In Samangan that is inhabited both by Tajiks and Uzbeks, with both ethnic groups voting differently, the atmosphere has become quite tense over the past days. On election day, agents of both presidential candidates accused each other of fraud, and both teams sent envoys into areas where their rivals had influence, trying to ascertain how many votes the other one had got. In the so called lower bazaar of Aibak, Samangan’s capital, traditionally a stronghold of the Dostum-Ghani ticket, there were more agents of Dr Abdullah than of Ashraf Ghani on the streets, while in the upper bazaar, home turf of Dr Abdullah, more Ghani agents could be seen. Muhammad Asef Azemi, the head of Dr Abdullah’s campaign team, accused governmental officials of supporting Ashraf Ghani. He also said there had been fraud in the Hazrat Sultan and Ru-ye Duab districts – according to him, “Ghani’s agents filled the boxes, not the voters.” The Ghani team, on the other hand, claimed that Dr Abdullah’s team had hindered Ghani agents from observing the election. Aiwaz Beg Oghli, the head of Ghani’s campain team, also said that in the districts of Ru-ye Duab and Khrom wa Sarbagh, Abdullah agents had threatened his team. He, too, accused government officials and IEC workers of helping his rival.

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Thematic Category: Political Landscape