Afghanistan Holds First Direct Presidential Election
Interim leader Hamid Karazai is the favorite to win the election, but he will need to win more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off, and as one of 18 candidates, that might prove difficult.
If a run-off is needed, the final outcome wouldn’t be decided until November. Even without a run-off, it may take weeks for the results to come in from the mountainous regions.
Heading into the election season, which officially began Sept. 7, concerns were raised about the potential of attacks from the Taliban. More than 60 people have been killed since the start of the season, with concerns growing for election weekend.
In the days before the election, a truck was stopped heading into Kandahar packed with explosives and 40,000 liters of fuel.
“It is obvious that their main goal was to detonate the truck in Kandahar city,” Afghan commander Abdul Ghafur told Reuters.
Meanwhile, three insurgents were killed and six wounded when the Taliban attacked Afghan troops in Kandahar’s district of Kharkez Thursday, the BBC reported.
Despite the violence, campaign workers remained upbeat.
“Everyone is optimistic that the election will carry forth,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ken MacKillop, spokesman for international peacekeepers. “We have been working very closely with the Afghan police and army to make sure the security environment in Kabul and throughout the country is as safe as possible,” the Associated Press reported.
The Taliban opposes women voting, and has used varying forms of intimidation to prevent it, though roughly 41 percent of the 10.5 million Afghans registered to vote are women. The number of registered women who live in areas where the Taliban is active is low, according to Human Rights Watch.
The group expected few women to vote on Saturday, reporting that many campaign workers have been harassed for raising women’s right issues. And many candidates have avoided addressing women’s rights.
The Minister for Women’s Affairs, Dr. Habiba Sarbi, says that Afghanistan still has a long way to go to improve the lives of women.
“We have to change the law but education is also very, very important. It’s fundamental,” Sarbi said, according to the BBC.
“Changing the attitudes of men rather than women because this is a male dominated country and men should change their mind towards the women.”