Concern about voting system ahead of Afghanistan election

Campaigning has started in Afghanistan for next month’s parliamentary elections amid concerns that the much-delayed vote could be postponed again due to the uncertainty over new technology.

The vote for the lower house of parliament has been scheduled for October 20 – delayed by more than three years – and is seen as a test for the presidential elections that will take place in April.

New government measures hope to put an end to the previous issues they have faced. With election fraud now being a criminal offence, voting stations will be placed in public buildings and monitored.

Additionally, a new advanced voting system will be used.

The election commission said it has acquired more than 20,000 biometric devices for facial recognition and finger printing to prevent voter fraud, but only 4,000 have so far arrived in the country. The operators have not yet been trained.

Despite the issues, many still remain optimistic.

“The biometric system is good. Because many national identity cards are fake and there is fraud. Votes can be bought. It has a lot of impact on our lives,” Zubair Ghafoori, an Afghan student, told Al Jazeera.

Kabul, and other cities across the country, are now displaying colourful campaign posters. On election day, voters will be able to cast ballots at 21,011 polling stations.

Security challenge

Besides transparency, security also poses a big challenge, particularly with most of rural Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban which will not be taking part in elections.

Some 54,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces will be responsible for protecting polling centres on election day.

In August, the Taliban launched a large-scale attack that almost saw the fall of the government-controlled town of Ghazni. 

“The strength of the Taliban is in the weakness of the Afghan government and this is something that has emboldened the Taliban during the past couple of years. This is the reason why the US is now willing to negotiate directly with the Taliban,” Haroor Mir, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera.

Afghanistan is also heavily dependent on international military and economic assistance, which constituted an estimated four percent of its GDP in 2016, according to the Index of Economic Freedom.

Its living standards are among the lowest in the world, and most of its population is illiterate, with many workers waiting for poorly paid daily work in Kabul.

“Right now if Taliban or ISIS came here with a truck offering work, all of us would go with them, all of us,” said an Afghan citizen. “That’s because we don’t have money and we need to eat.”

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