Campaigning for Afghanistan’s long-delayed parliamentary elections kicks off Friday (Sep 28), as a crescendo of deadly violence and claims of widespread fraud fuel debate over whether the vote will go ahead. More than 2,500 candidates will contest the Oct 20 poll, which is seen as a test run for next year’s presidential vote and a key milestone ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva where Afghanistan is under pressure to show progress on “democratic processes”. But preparations for the ballot, which is more than three years late, have been in turmoil for months, despite UN-led efforts to keep Afghan organisers on track.
Bureaucratic inefficiency, allegations of industrial-scale fraud and now an eleventh-hour pledge for biometric verification of voters threaten to derail the election and any hope of a credible result.
It will be “highly flawed”, a Western diplomat admitted to AFP this week, reflecting falling expectations across Kabul’s international community, which is providing most of the funding for the elections.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has insisted voting will go ahead, with or without the biometric machines that have been demanded by opposition groups to prevent people from voting more than once.