Daily Video

April 8, 2014

Afghans vote in record numbers despite threat of Taliban violence


Nearly 60 percent of Afghanistan’s 12 million eligible voters safely headed to the polls amid tight security and fears of Taliban attacks.

“That was a fantastic slap on the face of enemy of Afghanistan, and exactly a big punch in the face of those whom believed Afghanistan is not ready for democracy,” claimed Shukria Barakzai, a member of Afghanistan’s parliament.

This time around there were no reports of brazen election fraud, like the ballot box stuffing and official corruption that marred the country’s 2009 vote. By some accounts, more than a million of the 4.5 million votes cast in 2009 were fraudulent.

The election will decide the next president. Current President Hamid Karzai reached the term limit of 12 years. Three leading candidates have emerged as frontrunners, including Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official and finance minister who got just 3 percent of the vote in 2009, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who served as foreign minister after the ouster of the Taliban, and Zalmai Rassoul, another foreign minister who is favored by President Karzai.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted the U.S. doesn’t have a favorite.

“We don’t have a preferred candidate, because the future of Afghanistan is up to the Afghans to decide,” he said. “But we look forward to a productive relationship with President Karzai’s successor, whomever that may be.”

The Obama administration’s relations with the Afghan government, rocky at best, took a dive recently after Karzai refused to sign a bilateral security agreement which would have allowed some American and international troops to remain in Afghanistan to pursue al-Qaida and train Afghan forces. All three of Karzai’s potential successors have said they would sign the deal.

Preliminary results from the voting are due in three weeks, and a final official count on May 14. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent, there is a runoff election scheduled for late May.

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Afghanistan?
  2. What does it mean to have a democratic election?
Discussion questions
  1. What were the reactions of the people who voted in the election? Why do you think they felt this way?
  2. Why were Afghans worried about violence?
  3. In this weekend’s vote in Afghanistan “nearly 60 percent of the 12 million eligible voters headed to the polls…” How do you think that number compares to the percentage of Americans who participate in presidential elections? Explain your answer.
  4. What are some reasons that people might not vote either in Afghanistan or the United States?
Writing prompts
  1. Exercising your right to vote in the election process is an important part of being a member of a democratic society. First, explain why it is important to vote. Think of examples both from countries abroad and from our own history in the United States. Looking back, has everyone always had the right to vote in the United States? Why did those without the right feel that it was so important to have the right granted to them?

    Then play devil’s advocate and make the argument that voting doesn’t matter. MSNBC reports that out of 169 countries, the U.S. ranks 120th in voter turn out. Even during presidential elections only about 60% of eligible voters cast their ballot. Consider why such a large group doesn’t show up and if that’s actually a bad thing.

  2. In some countries voting is mandatory. For example, in Australia if you don’t vote you receive a fine. Make an argument either for or against mandatory voting and use examples from the video and your own experience to support your claims
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