Dozens of casualties as explosions rock chaotic Afghan elections

Published October 20, 2018, 7:43 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Agence France-Presse

Explosions rocked polling centers across Kabul on Saturday, causing dozens of casualties, as the long-delayed legislative election dissolved into chaos with many voting locations remaining closed due to technical glitches and lack of staff.

There are queues at some polling stations, as election officials wait to get voter lists or biometric devices (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)
There are queues at some polling stations, as election officials wait to get voter lists or biometric devices (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

At least three people were killed and more than 30 wounded, acting health ministry spokesman Mohibullah Zeer said, hours after the Taliban warned voters to boycott the ballot “to protect their lives”.

The Italian NGO Emergency said 37 people had been taken to its trauma hospital in Kabul, including a dead child.

Despite the threat of militant attacks, voters waited hours for polling centres to open across the war-torn country and many remained closed more than six hours after the election officially began.

After shambolic preparations, missing or incomplete voter registration lists and hiccups with biometric voter verification devices — which are being used for the first time — have caused lengthy delays at polling centres.

Most polling sites opened late after teachers employed to handle the voting process failed to show up on time, said the Independent Election Commission (IEC), which has promised to extend voting by four hours.

Polling centres that do not open before 1:00 pm (0830 GMT) would reopen on Sunday, the IEC told reporters.

“I came here early to finish and go home quickly, but we have been waiting for an hour and they have not started yet,” Mustafa, 42, told AFP outside a mosque in Kabul.

“The queue is getting longer. They have to register our votes quickly — we are afraid a bomber or a blast may hit us.”

After waiting four hours at a polling centre, Tabish Forugh tweeted he had not seen “even remotely similar… chaos” at previous elections.

University student Mohammad Alem said he felt “frustrated” after spending more than three hours trying to vote in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, only to discover his name was not on the registration list.

“There also were some problems with the biometric devices because they were already running out of charge,” he said.

 
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