Reporters on the Job

Tea and Afghan Politics: When staff writer Scott Baldauf returned to his hotel after reporting today's story about the Afghan elections he bumped into the hotel manager at the top of the stairs. The manager had a big smile and asked, "Would you join us for some tea?"

Scott agreed. "The hotel manager seemed to be making conversation, but he always seemed to be getting more information out of me than I did out of him. (I hate it when that happens.) He asked me what I thought of the elections, and I said they seemed peaceful. He asked if I thought there were any problems in the elections, and I answered in Persian: "Zaroor." (Of course.) He smiled."

Then, Scott asked him if he had voted, and looked at his fingertips for the tell-tale permanent ink stain. "He said he was just planning to go out right that moment, but he would take some tea with me. Then he reached into his pocket. He pulled out a collection of voter ID cards. Two of them were blank, one was complete with his photo and name filled in.

"While the voting rules say one ID per person, my hotel manager had three," says Scott. "He told me: 'This is something that you can get if you are a big important person.' It turns out my hotel manager's credentials included being a former director of the Afghan Red Cross during the communist government of President Mohammad Najibullah. "And this," he added, holding the blank voter ID card, "is why I have doubts about this election."

After tea, Scott returned to his room to finish writing his story. At the time of the polls closing, the hotel manager and former communist apparatchik still hadn't gone out to vote.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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