News / Asia

    Afghan Candidates Pledge Peace, Prosperity Amid Violence

    Afghan Candidates Pledge Peace, Prosperity Amid Violencei
    X
    Sharon Behn
    March 31, 2014 1:08 PM
    In Kabul, giant, clean political posters overlook the city’s dusty, chaotic, traffic-filled streets. Here, open-air markets, small shopping malls, supermarkets and roadside stalls crowd each other, while men in turbans and women in blue burqas walk by blast walls topped with barbed wire. Sharon Behn has more.
    Sharon Behn
    In Kabul, giant, clean political posters overlook the city’s dusty, chaotic, traffic-filled streets. Here, open-air markets, small shopping malls, supermarkets and roadside stalls crowd each other, while men in turbans and women in blue burqas walk by blast walls topped with barbed wire.

    Afghanistan is getting ready for presidential elections and all eight candidates are campaigning hard for the top slot. With current president Hamid Karzai constitutionally barred from a third term, the April 5 vote will be the first time power will be democratically transferred to a new leader.

    Analyst Fred Kagan says it’s vital that the vote brings forth a new leader that is acceptable to the Afghan people. “Nothing less than the future of Afghanistan is at stake,” he says. “The prospect of having a peaceful transition from one elected Afghan leader to another elected Afghan leader not of the same family is enormous.”

    Presidential hopefuls

    Of nine presidential candidates, there are three front-runners. All are promising a future of stability and growth despite a weak economy and constant militant bomb attacks.

    One is a former World Bank officer Ashraf Ghani. Seen as an intellectual, the carefully manicured Ghani is pledging to fight corruption and boost the economy. He is expected to continue the general political course set since the fall of the Taliban 13 years ago.

    Another leading candidate is Zalmai Rassoul. A former foreign minister under current president Hamid Karzai, Rassoul, like Ghani, is a technocrat. Karzai’s brother Qayum left his own presidential bid to join Rassoul’s campaign. Critics say a vote for Rassoul is a  vote for Karzai.

    And there is Abdullah Abdullah, an anti-Taliban figure and eye surgeon. Abdullah is also promising jobs and stability, but, as the former Afghan foreign minister who also ran for president in 2009, he is also vowing to reform the current presidential political system, distributing more power to the parliament.
     
    • Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah, sitting atop a vehicle, arrives for an election campaign in Panjshir province, March 31, 2014.
    • Presidential candidate Abdul Rasoul Sayyaf gestures as he talks to supporters at an election campaign rally in Kandahar, March 31, 2014.
    • Afghan men pass an election poster showing presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadza in the center of Kandahar, March 31, 2014.
    • A woman walks past a wall with graffiti encouraging the public to vote in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 30, 2014.
    • Presidential candidate and former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul (left) and his first vice-presidential candidate, Ahmad Zia Massoud (right) speak on a plane en route to Kabul, March 30, 2014.
    • A supporter of presidential candidate and former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, center, waves two Afghan national flags during a campaign rally in Herat, March 30, 2014.
    • The deeply conservative, all-male crowd at Afghanistan's Kandahar stadium watch as vice-presidential candidate, Habiba Sarabi, in a headscarf stood up and reached for the microphone, Kabul, March 17, 2014.

    Stability, security

    Andrew Wilder, director of the South and Central Asia programs at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, calls the elections are crucial to the nation’s future.

    “It’s so critically important, both for the future of political stability, security situation and the economic situation for these elections to go well," Wilder says. "So I think if they do go well, I think it will be transformative.”

    The Taliban have vowed to forcibly disrupt the vote, and have already bombed and gunned down election workers, international observers, and police. On Saturday, Taliban militants attacked the headquarters of the Afghan Independent Election Commission, the latest in a series of attacks across the capital. The past month has been particularly deadly, with more than 100 civilians killed.

    As for security, there are more green police pick-up trucks full of armed officers on the roads than usual. Missing are the fleets of armored vehicles that normally ferry international organization officers around the capital. US and international troops also now rarely make an appearance.

    The Kabul Serena Hotel, attacked in mid-March by pistol-carrying teenage militants who left nine dead, is eerily quiet. International observers from the National Democratic Institute and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who had been staying there left the country after the attack.

    Free and fair vote

    Jandad Spinghar, head of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA), is concerned about their departure. “The presence of international observers gives legitimacy, international legitimacy, to the election process," he says.

    Not all the international observers have gone, and Spinghar says it’s important that considerable numbers are present on voting day, as their stamp of approval will go a long way toward persuading losing candidates and voters to accept the results.

    FEFA has some 10,000 local observers deployed around the country to monitor the polls.

    Election officials and security officers are equally determined to see the ballot take place successfully. General Salim Ehsas, head of the election security commission, says Afghan forces are deployed around the country.

    “We have enough police, military, intelligence officers to safeguard the polling stations and roads for our people. We have the full support of our people," he says. "We are in contact with elders, religious leaders, and have asked for their advice and support.”

    Meredith "Chip" Buel contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: harvey from: las vegas, nv.
    March 31, 2014 5:46 AM
    It all comes back to Nation sovereigrity, whether air, land and sea.

    Obviously, neither Nations or the United Nation's are not proactive to address, vote, and pass a global Law which all Nations sign, that over rides. and

    Sets the standard globally, for all Nation's sovereigrity perimeters, which is the "core value" of those Nations that exist in this so called, "global community".

    When Nation's Core value sovereigrity is invaded by its security perimeter, there will be reaction.

    As Newton stated, "For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction", which is the case here with North and South Korea.

    Just like the other Nation of Ukraine, with it's port of Crimea being violated by its' state "core value perimeters" by the Russians, whether physical or invasion of air, land, or sea by military actions of practice or whatever means, the state-Nation should have legal priority, to balance, not compromise with those who chose to attempt to bully their way.

    Just because of some advanced greater power, such as Nukes, or Nuke building capability, should not make their egos bigger then NATO, or other International Laws, which they sign, this is a legal, and enforceable contract, as our Global Community evolves.

    There is no stopping globalization, it started from the Vikings, and continues even at this writing, whether we like it or not, if we can't run with the big dogs, then stay on our porch, and lick our pride.

    No matter what our individual mindset is, just as we know longer live in the "Stone Age", we are not pagans, and we should follow the same guidelines of internal Constitutions to measure, and protect.

    To secure our Nation, and our laws, not to build fences, but to tear down walls, in this developing Global Community.

    Not wait until after the fact of massive slaughter like in Syria by Assad, or even the violation of Saddam in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or any Nation State, which we all know has cost our Nation State a lot of lives, and monies with none diplomatic actions to date.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.