Positive Turnout in Afghan Elections

Nearly 60% of Afghanistan’s populace turned out to vote in presidential elections held this past Saturday in Afghanistan. The effort has been described as courageous and indicative of a strong desire to move Afghan society forward, as 7 of Afghanistan’s 12 million voted despite threats of violent retribution from Taliban militants. Due to the country’s terrain and still poor infrastructure, the results of the election aren’t expected to be known for another six to eight weeks, though for the moment the greater than expected turnout has both internal and external analysts cautiously optimistic about what the future may hold, even despite sporadic violence on election day. Indeed, reports emerged of Taliban attacks on police and polling stations, with two reported dead and another 14 wounded. Afghanistan’s security service also announced that an additional 14 Taliban were killed in fire fights with police and security services.

The way that that Afghanistan’s presidential elections are decided differs from those of most western democracies, as the winner most win over 50% of the vote in order to avoid a runoff, irrespective of the number of candidates. Given the fact that there are eight presidential candidates, the possibility of a runoff is high, though frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah is expected to prevail, and having garnered additional support after announcing Mohammed Mohaqiq would join him on his presidential ticket.

Efforts to ensure partiality and fairness in the election were highlighted by an unprecedented move to block all texting services throughout the country. The Afghan Telecommunications Ministry “disabled all SMS services” upon request from an Afghan election committee that sought to prevent last-minute campaigning. Previously, both Abudllah Abudllah and his closest rival, Zalmai Rasul, had faced allegations of using unfair campaigning practices such as mass text messages to encourage hundreds of thousands of Afghans to vote for them. The

News Briefs: 

  • Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion for the United Nations, issued a statement urging the Kazakh government to cease obligating religious communities to register with regional governments. The statement refers particularly to religions practiced by small, nomadic communities that are often found in different parts of the country depending on the season. The Kazakh Law on Religious Associations was passed in 2011 and has been criticized for allegedly restricting religious freedom.
  • Lead Iranian negotiator Hamid Baeedinejad affirmed Tehran’s belief that negotiations have progressed positively and constructively, and that disagreements have not yet derailed efforts to structure a lasting nuclear deal. The results of the negotiations will be submitted to the seven negotiations countries’ foreign ministers this coming week, with possible alterations expected to be devised and prepared for discussion when negotiations commence anew on 8 April in Vienna. Both sides have stated that an initial nuclear pact will be drafted in May, though many subsequent drafts are expected.
  • Officials in Kyrgyzstan and Iran have announced that flights between Bishkek and Tehran are set to become available “in the near future.” The move to facilitate access has been spurred on by the countries’ shared religious affiliation and the desire to promote greater civilian cooperation throughout Central Asia.
  • Ukrainian authorities have detained 15 individuals accused of stirring up unrest in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine on Saturday. In addition the detentions, caches of rifles, grenades and petrol bombs were similarly confiscated, as Ukraine moves to prevent further violence in its historically Russia-affiliated east. Anti-government, pro-Russia protestors have managed to seize government buildings in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, and have called for the eastern half of Ukraine’s accession to Russia.
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