CHARIKAR: Grizzled Afghan mujahideen commanders erupted into yells as their presidential candidate, a dapper man in a scarf and neatly trimmed beard, stepped towards the microphone.
“Victory awaits us!” Abdullah Abdullah, a senior aide to an anti-Taliban militia leader during the civil war, told a campaign rally yesterday.
“In the coming days, you will see our posters and will hear our voice from four corners of the country.”
Abdullah, a frontrunner in Afghanistan’s April 5 election, promised to create jobs and stability, seeking to give a sense of stability to Afghans worried about Nato withdrawing most of its troops after 13 years of fighting a stubborn insurgency.
The election he is contesting should mark the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history, since incumbent President Hamid Karzai is barred from running again.
But, burned by the widespread fraud that marred the previous presidential election in 2009, some in Afghanistan are already raising questions over the vote’s legitimacy.
“There must be a fair decision. We are tired of fighting,” said a 47-year-old voter, Omid Khan. Old men in traditional flat caps nodded vigorously as the young waved Abdullah flags.
Abdullah was a runner-up in the 2009 election, when more than a million votes were thrown out as fraudulent. Karzai kept his post after Abdullah refused to contest a second round, citing concerns over rigging.
This time, Abdullah has promised to deploy an election monitoring team to watch over every ballot box they can safely get to. Election authorities have registered 5,000 Abdullah observers, around three times as many as any other candidate.
“What we are really concerned about is massive industrial scale fraud,” Abdullah said in an interview in his elegant Kabul home. “The people will not accept such an outcome.”
His team has identified more than 800 polling stations due to open in highly insecure areas. They fear those ballot boxes will be stuffed if monitors are too afraid to step in.
The Taliban have threatened to kill anyone associated with the election. Reuters