Monday, September 19, 2005
On Sunday, Afghanistan held its first democratic general elections. They are the first elections held in the country since last year’s presidential elections.
There was voter participation of about 50%, compared with 70% for the previous presidential election. According to Bimillah Bismal, head of the Afghan-UN Joint Electoral Management Body, “The election was held in a peaceful manner…there was also a high level of political awareness and participation amongst the Afghan people.”
Voting proceeded calmly, with little violence at the polling stations, most of which were able to remain open throughout Saturday.
There are approximately 5,800 candidates, competing for 420 slots in the provincial court, and 249 deputy positions in the wing of the Afghani Parliament (Wolesi Jirga).
Violence did sprout up occasionally, with four election officials killed in the past year, as well as seven contenders for deputy positions. However, the US-led coalition is working to minimize these problems during the elections, and, so far, Taliban militant actions have not been an overwhelming issue.
Women have a sizable role to play in these elections–they can vote, and 10 percent of the candidates are female. Even in the more conservative southern areas of Afghanistan, a sizable number of female voters came to the polling stations.
Preliminary election results are expected by October 10.