Afghanistan held nationwide elections on Saturday for all 249 seats of the country's lower house of Parliament. Expectations were low, owing to the country's troubled security, the rife corruption of last year's election, and the pessimism across Afghanistan regarding the nation's deeply troubled political system. Here's what happened on Saturday, where the elections were successful, where they failed, and what it means.
- Less Violence, Less Voting Al Jazeera's Gregg Carlstrom and Evan Hill write, "Violence was low, but so was turnout during Afghanistan's second post-invasion parliamentary election on Saturday. The Taliban and other armed opposition groups caused less chaos and fewer casualties than in previous elections, but it seemed that threats issued over the course of months before the vote - and the generally worsening security around the country - had convinced at least two thirds of the voting population not to participate."
- Widespread Fraud Already Apparent The New York Times' Alissa Rubin writes, "A day after Afghan parliamentary elections, scores of accounts of local ballot stuffing as well as the suppression of voting like that in Nagahan are beginning to surface, especially from the troubled provinces in the south and east. It is too early to say how widespread the problems were, but in several provinces there were certainly irregularities, if not outright fraud, intended to help particular candidates."
- Reports of Violence The Washington Post's Ernesto Londono reports, "Afghan election commission chairman Fazal Ahmad Manawi said Sunday that election day had been more violent than initially reported. At least 21 voters were killed and 46 were wounded in attacks around the country, Manawi said. There were 93 attacks on polling centers, he added. The Taliban and other armed groups denounced the election, calling it a fraud orchestrated by the United States, and threatened to attack polling sites and voters."
- Afghan Voters Showed Courage, But for What? The U.K. Telegraph editorial board writes, "Amid such brutality, those who exercised their democratic right are to be congratulated. Sadly, in countries emerging from dictatorship, voters' courageous defiance of intimidation has been betrayed by the crushing of opposition, political bickering or ballot-rigging." However, "Against the military resurgence of the Taliban, political progress is agonisingly slow. ... Foreign military misdemeanour and domestic political stagnation are a terrible drag on the American-led efforts to bring representative government to these two countries. The first can and should be dealt with promptly. To overcome the second will require years of patient nurturing."
- The Good News: It Doesn't Matter Time's Tony Karon writes, "Sure, Afghanistan's fourth democratic election since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban was blighted by low turnout thanks to Taliban violence, and by familiar allegations of widespread ballot fraud, but none of that will have much impact on Afghanistan's future. ... all the main stakeholders in Afghanistan know that the contest among the politicians who ran in Saturday's election is of marginal significance; the key political contest that will shape Afghanistan's future is being waged between the Taliban insurgency and the U.S.-led NATO alliance. And it's not going very well for the Western coalition."