E-day has come and gone, yet despite the start of ramadan the election is still on most peoples' lips. preliminary results are due to be released in two days' time and rumours abound as to whether karzai or abdullah abdullah have won and by how much. observation missions are releasing post-election statements that vary between vague/toothless and overly praising.
let's be clear: these elections were neither free nor fair. despite the reasonable exercise of democratic rights i witnessed in herat city, the electoral process was fraught with violence, fear, corruption and a severe lack of accountability. reports abound on the less-than-democratic events around the country on election day, and a few of us who have collected anecdotes from around the country are criticizing how international stakeholders can be so blind as to hail the elections as a success.
while many more polling stations were able to open than generally anticipated, it is naive to assume that what transpired outside and inside these polling stations resembled democracy. fear of violence and reprisal kept most of the electorate at home in the south of the country, with some estimates indicating an 8% voter turnout in that region. some of those who did risk their lives to come out to vote faced campaigning and intimidation. even in the quiet city of herat i witnessed arguments among election officials and candidate agents over allegations of on-site campaigning and intimidation. so, free? it seems not.
what is fair about female candidates receiving threatening phone calls or feeling in danger while campaigning? what is fair about men and women in the remote rural areas not having comparable access to voter education programmes so that when someone tries to buy their voter cards to tell them to whom to vote they have enough confidence and knowledge to resist and protect their democratic rights?
at least there is good news for those afraid of losing a digit to the taliban: the ink, evidence of their participation, could be made to disappear from their finger with a bit of bleach, thus saving them from potential prosecution.