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April 07, 2014

Afgans Vote in Large Numbers Despite Taliban Threats and Attacks; Hamid Karzai's Chosen Successor Unlikely to Make it to the Runoff

Maybe some small amount of good news.

Maybe. Things have a tendency to find their way to new awfulnesses.

Afghan voters turned out in large numbers Saturday for historic presidential and provincial elections, undeterred by the threat of violence by the Taliban and poor weather.

A heavy security presence in the capital, Kabul, and across the country ensured that the vote went largely smoothly, although some attacks were reported.

...

Afghan lawmaker Shukria Barakzai, at a polling station in Kabul, told CNN she felt proud and happy because "today is the day ... when the people of Afghanistan can go and vote freely."

She said the turnout was a slap in the face for the Taliban and terrorists who have sought to obstruct the elections.

"See, wonderful people are coming to practice democracy," she said. "We are not afraid of the threats. As much as they kill us, we get more stronger. As much as they killed our children, our journalists and innocent women, we say no, we will go and vote because we are fed up. We want to see real change, we want to enjoy our democracy."

Karzai had backed a candidate named Rassoul. Karzai had gone so far as to ask his own brother to back out of the race, to clear a path for Rassoul.

It will take weeks to count the votes (and rule on all the allegations of fraud), but a sampling from 100 key polling places seems to indicate the public has had enough of the Karzai regime.

Former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah appeared to be the two front-runners in Afghanistan's presidential election, sidelining a candidate viewed as President Hamid Karzai's favorite, according to partial results tallied by news organizations and one candidate.

A victory for Mr. Abdullah or Mr. Ghani could significantly reduce the influence of Mr. Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion. Both candidates say they will sign the bilateral security agreement, which is needed to maintain American aid and a limited U.S. military presence in Afghanistan once the international coalition's current mandate expires in December. Mr. Karzai has infuriated Washington by refusing to complete the deal.

...

The Wall Street Journal tallied partial election results from visits to roughly 100 polling stations, out of more than 20,000 nationwide, in the capital Kabul and the cities of Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, Kandahar in the south, and Gardez and Jalalabad in the east. At nearly all these stations, Messrs. Ghani and Abdullah were the clear leaders, according to counts posted by local poll supervisors. Mr. Karzai's former foreign minister, Zalmai Rassoul, trailed far behind.

Based on very little information at all, I'm pulling for Abdullah:

Both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah ran against Mr. Karzai in the 2009 election. Mr. Abdullah, 54, a former aide to anti-Taliban Tajik commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, came in second at the time with 30.6%.

Massoud, you might remember, was the Northern Alliance commander who was assassinated by bomb just before 9/11, on September 9, 2001. It was theorized back then that this was a prepatory move by the Taliban, knowing that the US attack which would surely follow would probably involve first making common cause with the Northern Alliance.

I don't know if those speculations have held up, or if the Taliban's assassination was just coincidental in time.

Apparently Abdullah has a shot at winning because he's partly Pashtun (Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group) and speaks Pashto better than Rassoul-- who despite being Pashtun himself, grew up in a Persian-speaking area.

Oh, both Abdullah and Ghani have former (?) warlords for running mates.

I guess that's just Afghanistan.



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posted by Ace at 02:07 PM

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