Afghan voter registration marred
Insecurity and charges of fraud could hamper election officials' ability to ensure popular acceptance of next year's presidential poll results.
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According to the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, an Afghan-based NGO that observed the process, multiple registrations of a single person were seen in at least 40 percent of all centers during the most recently completed phase of the drive. In one case, investigators found that some 500 registration cards were issued to one person in Badghis Province.Skip to next paragraph
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Investigators also found men staffing female registration centers and election officials who were members of political parties.
Poor security also obstructs the process. According to interviews with local tribal elders and provincial officials, insurgents effectively control six of Wardak's eight districts. "There are districts that I am 100 percent sure no government worker can go to," says Roshanak Wardak, a member of parliament from Wardak Province. "But you are telling me that still so many people registered? I don't believe it."
The IEC claims that of the province's 90 registration centers, 82 remained open during registration. But residents say that in the Pashtun districts, many centers never opened. "I went to staff the registration office just once," says one election worker from the Syed Abad district of Wardak, who declined to be named for security reasons. "The rest of the time I stayed in my village, which is controlled by the Taliban."
Provincial officials say that election teams rarely, if ever, ventured outside district capitals. "Nobody came to our village. Almost no one has new registration cards," says a member of the Shura Council of Chakh district.
As a result, the two Hezara-dominated districts of Wardak comprise the bulk of new voters. The IEC does not release registration numbers on a district-by-district or ethnicity basis, but IEC spokesman Mr. Barakzai says that "the registration numbers in Pashtun districts are very low."
Although some people who didn't register this year may still hold valid registration cards from the previous presidential election, the factors that kept Pashtuns from registering could keep those who have cards from voting. If the results of Wardak and elsewhere are reproduced in Pashtun regions, there could be an ethnic imbalance, says Mr. Rafeh, the policy analyst.
Security concerns also threaten the elections. "If this [security] situation continues, elections will be postponed or canceled," Rafeh says. Insurgents have kidnapped or killed a number of election workers in recent months. In some areas, they have posted threats to anyone who registers to vote.
According to the Constitution, elections must take place in the spring of 2009. But IEC officials have tentatively scheduled polls for the fall. "If ... security ... doesn't allow elections, a state of emergency can be declared and the elections can be postponed even further," adds Mr. Barakzai.
"This is not the type of election we want," Roshanak Wardak, a member of parliament, says. "If you can't guarantee our security, don't expect us to come out and vote."