Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back in Kabul after several years...

August 16th, 2009

I landed in Kabul today to monitor the Afghan Presidential Elections as part of a Democracy International delegation. Have not been here for several years and how the city has changed. Nice, new airport terminal, knowledgeable airport staff. And on the way to the hotel: entire high-rise building communities, wedding halls, small vendors and shops everywhere, and Kabul is much greener now with shrubs planted along the main roads.

Signs of hope everywhere, despite the car bomb that exploded yesterday outside of the NATO headquarters in Kabul, killing 7 people. These tactics are definitely designed to intimidate people into staying away from the polls this Thursday, August 20th. And it has led to greater caution, esp. among the internationals: Our car took a circuitous route to the place I'm staying to avoid areas of target, there is a blimp floating above Kabul which is apparently fitted with cameras that can recognize a person's face up to 22 kilometers away, and all members of our delegation are required to wear body armor whenever we leave our housing. A hunkering down mentality in the days leading up to the elections...


The latest polls by the International Republican Institute ( and Reuters indicate a significant lead for Karzai, though not at the over 50 percent hurdle that the winning candidate needs to avoid a run-off, second round of elections. These polls indicate that the population is disillusioned by the lack of progress during the last five years and therefore electoral turnout is likely to suffer from voter apathy. But my small sample of five Afghans working at the hotel where I am staying seem more enthusiastic these polls and other news stories. The staff I talked to here are very likely to vote in Thursdays elections.

In all likelihood there is a great difference between voters in urban areas (who are of course more educated and have access to tvs and other media sources covering the elections) versus those in rural areas, especially those in the insecure rural areas. And this will impact the poll turnout. For example, my Afghan colleagues here tell me that in tonights presidential candidates' debate Karzai appeared less statesmen-like than Bashardost and Ghani at times boasting "Afghanistan, which has suffered a lot, was totally lost. I saved it." And at other times in the debate he tried to shift blame for the security situation away from his government, saying that foreign countries were to blame.

All of this makes for an unpredictable and closely watched election in Afghanistan.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, dearest Rani, for the interesting news you gave us. I hope a lot of people will vote in Thursday elections despite the Talibani's threats and, as always, women discrimination.... A big hug. Rosa