News / Asia

White House Expects Successful Afghan Vote Despite Problems

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Kent Klein

White House officials say they expect Afghanistan's parliamentary elections to be successful, despite violence and threats of more violence by the Taliban before the vote.  Officials say Afghanistan has made progress in dealing with violence and election fraud.

The Taliban is blamed for kidnapping at least 19 people the day before Saturday's election.  A candidate and several election workers were among those taken captive, and the Taliban is threatening nationwide attacks.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Friday the Taliban's intimidation is nothing new to Afghans. "The Taliban terrorizes people in Afghanistan every single day.  Their terrorizing people in that country is not simply reserved for near an election," he said.

Gibbs said the insurgents are threatened by these elections, and will do anything possible to undermine them.  But he said the Afghan people will not be intimidated. "I think you will see brave Afghans disregard the thuggish warnings of a brutal regime, and instead cast their votes, as I said, in a very important election," he said.

More than 250,000 Afghan police and soldiers will be deployed during the voting, with help from international troops.

NATO troops have arrested or killed several insurgents who were believed to be plotting election-related attacks.

However, Afghan officials say about 15 percent of the polling stations will not open because of security problems.

Senior White House officials say Afghanistan has improved its ability to guard against violence and vote fraud since last year's presidential election, in which one-third of the votes for President Hamid Karzai were thrown out.

About 11 million Afghan voters are going to select 2500 candidates who run for 249 seats in the lower house of the Afghan parliament.

Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs says with so many candidates, allegations of fraud are expected, but the Afghan government has improved its ability to handle the complaints. "You are going to have nine people that are not going to get as many votes as one is, and you will hear a number of claims.  We take those claims seriously, but we think that the Afghans have set up a structure to provide for a successful election," he said.

Senior administration officials expect results no earlier than October 30.

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