Afghans Vote In Kandahar Elections Delayed By Violence
Voters went to the polls amid tight security in Kandahar Province on October 27 in parliamentary elections that were delayed in the southern Afghan province by one week after a high-profile Taliban attack.
Major roads throughout southern Kandahar were closed nearly 24 hours before polls opened to stop vehicle-born explosive devices from entering the province, said provincial governor’s spokesman Aziz Ahmed Azizi.
Polls closed at 5 p.m. local time. Election officials could not immediately determine the turnout from the 567,000 registered voters in Kandahar.
Reports suggested that dozens of polling stations opened late because staff did not show up or election materials were not readily available.
Seyed Hafizullah Hashemi, Independent Election Commission spokesman, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that the issue will be investigated.
Election officials said 111 candidates were vying for 11 seats in parliament from southern Kandahar in Afghanistan’s 249-seat chamber.
The delay in voting was the result of the assassination of Kandahar’s police chief General Abdul Raziq by Taliban insurgents two days before the national elections.
The killing of Raziq, who was widely credited for maintaining stability in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, sent shock waves through the country.
Officials said thousands of soldiers were deployed to boost the morale of voters shaken by the killing. Zia Durani, a spokesman for the Kandahar police, said security forces are working to protect more than 550,000 voters expected to cast their ballots in the province.
However, as polls closed no major incidents of violence had been reported during voting in Kandahar on October 27.
But security officials said there could be further attacks by Taliban militants who are seeking to reimpose strict Islamic law in Afghanistan after their 2001 ouster by U.S.-led forces.
The Afghan elections have been rocked by repeated Taliban and Islamic State attacks. Both groups have warned Afghans against participating in the elections and have used violence to try to prevent people from going to the polls.
Underscoring the country’s precarious security situation, a suicide bombing outside a police compound in central Wardak Province south of the Afghan capital, Kabul, killed at least five people and wounded 15, a police spokesman said.
The October 27 bombing in Maidan Shahr, the main city of the province, happened as police officers and civilians were going inside the base, Hekmat Durrani, a spokesman for the police chief, said.
Three civilians and two policemen were among the dead, Durrani said, adding that the casualty figure could rise.
A Taliban spokesman said the insurgent group was responsible for the attack.
During two days of voting last weekend, militants launched some 250 attacks across the country, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100, the Interior Ministry said.
Taliban militants cut off Hafizullah’s index finger as punishment for voting in Afghanistan’s recent parliamentary elections. “We risked our lives to vote,” he says.
Raziq and Kandahar’s intelligence agency commander were killed on October 18 when a member of the provincial governor’s bodyguard staff opened fire on officials leaving a meeting with the U.S. commander of Afghanistan’s NATO-led force, General Scott Miller.
Miller escaped unharmed, but a U.S. general was one of two Americans wounded in the attack.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government named Raziq’s brother as his successor.
Raziq’s death could serve as a rallying point for voters, said Dawa Khan Menapal, an independent Kandahar candidate.
“People are determined to take part in the election because they want to show the Taliban that terror cannot stop the Afghans from deciding their future,” he said.
“We are willing to vote and we will come out even if it costs our lives,” registered voter Samiullah told AFP. “Afghanistan has been torn by war and that’s why we must decide our future and vote for our candidates.”
With the Taliban operating across much of the country and heavy pressure from international partners for the vote to be held, the election has been seen as a major test for the government.
Voting last weekend was held in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces, with a high turnout reported despite logistical and technical glitches, as well as violence.
Elections also were not held in central Ghazni Province, southwest of the capital, which is still reeling from the Taliban’s takeover in August. It was not immediately clear when they will be held.
Preliminary nationwide results are expected to be released in November. Final results will not be known until the new year.