Reporters on the Job

Voting in Afghanistan: Staff writer Scott Baldauf has covered elections in India, Kashmir, Pakistan, and Texas. So he has some experience in observing an electoral process. To report today's story about the Afghan elections (this page), he traveled to several villages as well as visited polling stations in the capital city of Kabul on Saturday. "In the villages, it looked like the dress rehearsal of a high school play; no one seemed too sure of what they were doing. The voters were excited and the officials were sincere. Of course in Kabul the process was more professional," Scott says.

Did he see signs of massive fraud?

"If there was, we didn't see it. We saw some problems with the ink, but those were resolved," says Scott. "In one village, a man came up and said, 'Look, the ink is coming off' his thumb. He wasn't bragging or trying to vote again. He seemed genuinely concerned about the legitimacy of the process."

Scott says that voting more than once would have been difficult. "In the villages, people would know if you'd been through the line more than once. It would be easier in the cities, but it would be hard to vote in the village and vote again by traveling to a nearby city. The security was tight on the roads into the city because they were trying to keep the Taliban out. There were a lot of check points," he says.

Saudi Women Won't Vote: Women will not be allowed to vote in Saudi Arabia's municipal elections, the first nationwide poll to be held in the autocratic kingdom, the Associated Press reported. The decision, announced by Interior Minister Prince Nayef Monday, dashed the hopes of Saudis seeking democratic reforms.

An electoral official said administrative reasons were behind the decision to ban women from running or voting in the municipal elections that are scheduled to begin in February. The official, who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity, said there are not enough women to run women-only registration centers and polling stations, and only a fraction of the country's women have photo identity cards. Many women in this devoutly Muslim kingdom balked at getting the ID cards - introduced in 2001 - because the pictures would show their faces unveiled.

This also dashes the hopes of Nadia Bakhurji, who planned to be a candidate, as reported on Sept. 16, "A woman runs for office in Saudi Arabia."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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