Afghanistan election day: spotty turnout, fake voter cards, and some feisty voters
Afghanistan's election Saturday yielded reports of intimidation in unstable regions. In Kabul, some voters aimed to oust incumbents, while others appeared to want to cast ballots more than once.
In the safer cities of Afghanistan, voters turned out to cast ballots for Parliament, while spot reports from unstable regions suggest intimidation and disillusionment kept many Afghans at home.
Like last year's troubled election, violent attacks on voting day were numerous and geographically widespread, but not individually dramatic.
Preliminary figures indicate that 3,642,444 ballots were cast, according to the country's election commission. At the same point in the presidential vote last year, before any votes were dismissed for fraud, more than 5 million had been cast.
The extent of actual voting will not be fully understood until ballots boxes are inspected and tallies are analyzed for patterns of fraud, a process that could take weeks. The verdict on how fair the election will hinge on how diligently dirty votes are tossed out in the days ahead.
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But the question of how free the election was may linger.
"How many would have voted if it was safe?" asks Marvin Weinbaum, an election observer in Kabul with Democracy International. "You can't measure the intimidation. How do you evaluate that? That's the real unknown here."
Observers from the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan reported 224 "serious acts of intimidation" in the first four hours of voting.
And the country's election commission reported that it did not open 153 polling centers amid security concerns – that is on top of more than a 1,000 closed before the election. Due to the closures, significant numbers of Afghan voters had no nearby polling center.
Journalists in heavily Pasthun regions of the contested south and east of the country reported seeing few people voting.