News / Asia

On the Spot: Afghan Elections Breed Security Fears

Sarah Williams

Human Rights Watch says Afghanistan's September 18 parliamentary elections could be "severely compromised" because of insurgent attacks on candidates and poor government security.

Sarah Williams spoke with HRW researcher Rachel Reid, who compiled the report issued Thursday.

"The Taliban have made it incredibly clear this time that they are directly targeting anyone associated with the election. Candidates, security forces, campaigners, election workers, voters are all targets. They have claimed responsibility for the assassination of three parliamentary candidates already. A lot of women candidates in particular have been subject to threats."

Reid spoke with a wide array of election workers and candidates about the preparations for next week's vote. She said many candidates cannot travel freely to the districts they want to represent.

"One candidate from Ghazni in the southeast was telling me that when he talks to voters, they speak in whispers as if people are listening, and they're terrified to come out on polling day."

Afghan election officials on Wednesday said about 15 percent of the planned polling stations in the country will not be open due to security concerns.

"The biggest obstacle to stopping fraud is the level of insecurity. And if anything the security situation has gotten worse since the presidential elections in 2009. For instance they have not been able to address the huge problems in voter registration. It was only a week ago when there was finally a decision for whose responsibility it would be to hire women to conduct security checks for the women's polling stations."  



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