Political Landscape

Elections 2014 (4): The election day in snapshots from the provinces


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How did election day go? After a first collection of voices from the provinces on the day before the vote (read here), we continued to hear from our friends and from journalists, civil society activists and government officials across the country. We asked them to describe what they saw in terms of voter turnout, atmosphere, fraud – or the absence of it -, how orderly they found the process, and what the security situation was like. Here is what they said, in their own words.

AAN observer, Kandahar city

I found the turnout of voters impressive today – at least of the men. At the polling stations for the men queues were so long that people worried they would not be able to vote in the end. I haven’t seen women having to line up, there were three to five at the most at any given time. One problem for the IEC personnel in the stations I saw was that both men, especially old men, and women needed a lot of help voting. They needed instructions how to select a candidate, sometimes even on how to hold a pen.

The city is very calm, too. No reports of major incidents so far. The security forces have blocked all streets, and with no traffic, children have turned them into cricket fields and playgrounds all over the city. From districts, reports of rigging have started to trickle in around noon, particularly from Spin Boldak, Arghandab, Daman and Ghorak. The claims could not be verified yet.

AAN observer, Paktia, speaking from Gardez

Paktia presented a very diverse picture, different from district to district. In general, the people I saw coming to polling stations (mostly men, I didn’t see many women) seemed really happy to be able to vote, it showed in their faces. But sometimes they couldn’t. In Gardez district, everything seemed to go ahead in an orderly fashion – although I saw an eight year old boy vote in the Tera polling centre and no one said anything -, but in Zurmat district, for example(1), we heard that not a single polling centre opened, none of the 34 polling centres and 76 polling stations. All of them had been closed down by the Taleban in the early morning. The Taleban had closed the doors and warned people not to come back. However, later, the security forces took back the control of the area and the polling centres were open around 9 am. In the same district, in front of the Mamozai polling centre, two election observers were reported injured; it says they had triggered an IED the Taleban had hidden by the roadside. From the Shwak district, also quite far away from the provincial centre, we heard that the Taleban had come last night and took all the ballots with them; Shwak is a small district with two polling centres. And in the Sayed Karam district, in the polling centres Sanjak and Qala Nadirkhan, there were reports of candidates’ agents ‘buying’ votes – each for 200 Afghanis.

Good news came, at least at first, from the Sayed Karam district close to the province’s capital. An influential person here in Paktia told me that all of the 20 polling centres in the district were open and that the vote was going ahead calmly. But after two in the afternoon, the situation in some of the polling centres changed: armed men came and tried force people to vote for one of the presidential candidates and one provincial council candidate. As a result, three of the polling centres closed.

Civil society activist, Ghazni

In general, lots of people are participating in the elections, everyone is very eager to vote. Things went quite well and transparently in the centre of the province, but I received reports about problems from the more remote districts. Some were election management related, others seem to be signs of fraud. Observers told me for example that there had been no ink delivered to Quria village of the Jaghori district. Other polling centres were out of ballot papers too soon. But the IEC managed to deliver the materials to these stations so that the vote could proceed. However, we heard that IEC personnel has not always been impartial but some of them were campaigning for one of the presidential candidates. I heard the same about government officials in other districts and in favour of other candidates. They asked people to vote for a certain candidate and handed out money. But I am happy to hear that there were quite a lot of women coming to the polling stations, despite the rain.

Civil servant, Daikondi

The situation is not bad. There was fighting in the Kijran district in two places, but it was far from the polling centres and did not affect the voting. There were no reports of rockets fired at polling sites. The weather is very rainy, but a lot of people were voting in areas like Kiti and Kijran. Here, voters were also coming from the neighbouring Na Omish district [a newly established Hazara district in Helmand, which has no polling centres of its own] to vote for the presidential elections. In other districts, like Bandar Sang Takht, Ashterlai and Khedir it snowed last night. People are afraid of avalanches in these areas, so not that many people are travelling to the polling centres, especially in Bandar Sang Takht and Ashterlai. Some candidates have arranged transport for the voters. In Khedir, a vehicle that was transporting voters had an accident, they say that everyone was killed, maybe twelve people in total.

AAN observer, Mazar-e Sharif

The weather here is good, cloudy but it is not raining. Participation was very high, men and women. At all polling centres, large crowds were waiting outside, so many polling stations ran out of ballot papers early in the day. I saw several places that had run out between 12 and 2pm. The staff told the people to wait, but most of them left. I don’t know if they went to other polling centres or if they went home, but I interviewed one person who had gone to four centres and hadn’t been able to vote anywhere. The papers did arrive in the end, I saw three polling centres that received 600 extra ballot papers. People were complaining – they think that this did not only happen in Mazar, but in the whole north. Security was good. I just heard one person speaking on the radio, I think he was from the NDS: he said there had been an explosion in a village, I think one person was killed. And there was a report that a commander had told the IEC staff in a village to give the two boxes to him and then he would return the boxes later, full. But they stopped that.

Young businessman, Kandahar (in the afternoon)

I am at the Sayed Jamaludin Afghani Lycee in the centre of the Aino Mina project. The polling centre has run out of forms [ballot papers]. It is so crowded here. I left the building and am now outside, standing under the trees. There must be about 500 to 600 people waiting. Half of them are still standing in line, the other half came outside to wait there. They ran out of forms about an hour ago. I don’t know if they’re going to send new ones, there is no radio wallah here or someone we can ask. There are also women waiting, but they still have ballot papers, they are just waiting because many came and the process is slow. On the men’s side, there were six offices [polling stations] but now only one of them is still open. Nobody is telling us anything, we don’t know how long we should wait.

Voter, Kabul, Pul-e Charkhi area

I took the women from my family to vote in this centre, sixteen in total. When we came back home, I asked them how the procedure went. They said that the staff inked their fingers and then told them that they were free to go, that they didn’t need to stay around; they would fill the papers for them. So they left. I didn’t bring them for that. I brought them so that they could vote. It’s a kind of corruption.

Journalist, Herat city

In Herat, the number of voters both male and female is unprecedented – and although many people have expected there would be a lot of fraud, it does not seem to be that way. Everyone looked happy today, although it was cold and people had to wait to vote. We see a great turnout of female voters, but also lots of small problems. Some women go in groups for voting, and they consult with each other; we saw this for example in a madrassa in Herat’s city centre. In addition, the head of the madrassa who is also a member of the Ulama Council tried to influence the women to support one of the presidential candidates. In the Jami Girls Highschool in Herat city, the ink used to mark the fingers was not real, I saw voters wash it off. The female principal of another highschool, the Gawharshad Highschool has been arrested for campaigning for one of the presidential candidates.

As for the remote districts, I heard that in the Torghundi area in Gulran district, close to the border to Turkmenistan, nine out of 16 polling centres remained closed and two centres that opened were under the control of a local commander. He allowed people to vote only if they voted for the presidential candidate he supports. In total, of 253 polling centres 30 remained closed and in 12 of them the ballots were finished early.

AAN observer, Kunduz

I was astonished to see how many people went to cast a vote; many of the voters I spoke to also felt that this was a special day. And elections did not only go well in Kunduz city – also in the often quite insecure districts such as Khanabad, Imam Sahib, Aliabad or Dasht-e Archi. Before the elections, everyone had been very afraid of Taleban attacks. But they failed to signficantly disrupt the day. 15 minutes before the polling stations closed at 5 pm, the governor of Kunduz, Ghulam Sakhi Baghlani, held a triumphant speech saying that 207 centres had opened in the province, only nine remained closed. There is still some confusion about the figures, though: the IEC said that 12 centres remained closed. The figures will probably shake out in the next few days. The city is calm, but security is still tight, with many police check posts. The police manages the first ‘security ring’ in the city; policemen are searching every single vehicle. The second security ring is manned by the ANA. People told me that there was a blast at the Khanabad bus station, inside the capital of Kunduz, and someone also told me about another one somewhere else in the city. However, it seems as if the biggest problems of the day were ‘only’ of technical nature. For instance, the delivery of ballots to the polling station in the Fatumatul Zahra High School was delayed. By the way, the IEC staff is not very experienced in many places, they looked at the voter cards without reading them properly. For instance, I am not from the province, but they still gave me the ballots for both the presidential and the provincial council vote – I am not supposed to vote for the provincial council here. But the ink seemed to work. I can’t wash mine off.

Local resident, Khost

We had some problems with insurgents this morning. They shot down from the mountains on the village Almari, in Nadir Shah Kot district. Almari has one polling centre with two stations, and many people had come to vote. But the national security forces had it under control fast. The situation is calm now. The ANSF is patrolling the mountains and more people went to the polling stations to vote. There were very few women. No fraud has been reported yet.

Civil society activist, Nimruz

We had big problems here in Nimruz, with the management of the elections and a severe lack of transparency. For example, the IEC had sent ballots to the Robat, Rudbar and Jan Bek areas of the Charborjak district – very remote places under threat of the Taleban. No national or international observer can go there; even if I was paid thousand dollars I wouldn’t go – but the IEC sends ballots there for people to vote? The ballots never arrived there. Eyewitnesses told me that they saw how the boxes left the IEC headquarter, labelled to go to these areas – but as of now no one knows where they went and who will fill them. The same happened in the Dangarabad and Astawee areas of the Dularam district and some other insecure areas the IEC sent ballots to for the vote, for example the villages Khawaja Surkhbay and Awal Baluchi villages of the Chekhansor district. In Zaranj district, I saw myself that policemen and IEC staff told people they could only enter polling centres if they voted for a certain presidential candidate. People were standing in line, waiting to vote but finally all of them left. They were angry and pondered to start a demonstration. I called the police, but they switched off their phone. The phone number of the provincial IEC office was also switched off.

 

(1) Zurmat is a ‘historical’ stronghold of the Taleban and therefore sometimes known as ‘Little Kandahar’. During the 2009 presidential election, only one polling centre was reported open there. According to our sources, the votes did not come from Zurmat directly, though; the polling centre had been ‘relocated’ to a security officer’s home in the provincial centre Gardez and stuffed there. As a result, Zurmat only had 1,900 votes counted, of 62,510 registered voters. The Taleban had cut off all roads leading to the district centre (they controlled the rest of the district anyway), and this was also where some of their notorious finger tip-cutting – to scare off voters – was reported from (see AAN 2009 reporting here and here). During the parliamentary elections 2010, again, there was not much voting in Zurmat; polling materiel was flown in and reportedly delivered to the houses of security forces officer (see our 2010 reporting here).

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Thematic Category: Political Landscape