Fear and Optimism Define Afghanistan on Eve of Presidential Vote
Violence has been a constant feature of the presidential campaign, as Taliban insurgents and warlord militias have sought to undermine the democratic process. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Attacks and other acts of intimidation are ongoing, underscored by a large explosion that rocked Kabul on October 8, near the headquarters of the international security force in Afghanistan and the US and German embassies. Authorities were bracing for more acts of violence on election day itself.
There is little tension surrounding the election race, as interim President Hamid Karzai is expected to easily defeat his 17 challengers. Most attention at this stage is focusing on voter turnout and the ballot-counting effort. Observers have identified numerous flaws in the voter registration process, raising the likelihood of election irregularities. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].
Taliban militants have been most active in southern and eastern areas of the country. In the southern city of Kandahar, heartland and traditional stronghold of Afghanistan's majority Pashtun ethnic group, the atmosphere during a recent visit seemed largely optimistic, despite some expressions of concern about the Jangsalarn and Topakian Afghan terms for the warlords and the Taliban gunmen.
According to one senior politician in Kandahar, the mere fact that the election is being held at all should be viewed as a major accomplishment. "Irrespective of the results and how transparent will these elections be, holding the event is an achievement in itself," the senior politician told EurasiaNet.
Being Karzai's home town, campaign posters featuring his beaming smile are stuck on walls and doorways all around Kandahar. Almost everybody interviewed in the dusty former Taliban stronghold was confident that election day would be peaceful in Kandahar city. However, many voiced concern that voting in the surrounding countryside could be plagued by violence.
In the southeastern city of Gardez, the continuing threat of violence has not dampened Dr. Naz Dana Paktiawala's optimism that the election will open a more stable epoch for Afghanistan. "I think we still have a long way to go, but I am nearly certain that war is not going to return any time soon," Paktiawala said. In one sign that local residents want the democratic experiment to succeed, many tribes in the region have formed
Abubaker Saddique reports on South Central Asia.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter. Support Eurasianet: Help keep our journalism open to all, and influenced by none.