Violence rocks chaotic Afghan legislative election

Afghan security forces arrive at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Oct 20, 2018.
Afghan security forces arrive at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Oct 20, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL • Dozens of Afghans were killed or wounded in poll-related violence yesterday as the legislative election turned chaotic, with hundreds of polling centres failing to open and voters queuing for hours due to technical glitches and lack of staff.

Election organisers, who have been skewered over their shambolic preparations for the long-delayed ballot, extended voting until today for 360 polling centres after hiccups with voter registration lists and biometric verification devices caused lengthy delays.

Ten civilians and five police officers were killed when a suicide bomber tried to enter a polling station in Kabul as voting concluded yesterday, a security official said.

The attack appeared to have been the most serious of a day marked by a series of smaller-scale incidents that caused dozens of casualties across the country.

The Taleban had warned voters to boycott the ballot "to protect their lives".

An Independent Election Commission (IEC) employee was killed and seven others were missing after the Taleban attacked a polling centre in the northern province of Kunduz, destroying ballot boxes, provincial IEC director Mohammad Rasoul Omar said.

Three rockets also struck the Kunduz provincial capital, but there were no casualties.

 
 
 

The Taleban claimed it carried out 166 attacks on voting locations, checkpoints and military sites on yesterday morning.

Despite the threat of violence, large numbers of voters showed up at polling centres in major cities, where they waited hours for them to open. Most polling sites opened late after teachers employed to handle the voting process failed to show up on time, said the IEC, which promised to extend voting by four hours.

University student Mohammad Alem said he felt "frustrated" after spending more than three hours trying to vote in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, only to discover his name was not on the registration list.

"There also were some problems with the biometric devices because they were already running out of charge," he said.

Almost nine million people registered to vote in the parliamentary election, which is more than three years late. But attacks across the country yesterday are likely to deter many from turning up at the nearly 5,000 polling centres.

Preliminary results will be released on Nov 10 but there are concerns they could be thrown into turmoil if the biometric verification devices are broken, lost or destroyed.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 21, 2018, with the headline 'Violence rocks chaotic Afghan legislative election'. Print Edition | Subscribe