AFGHANISTAN

Our Afghani Observers weigh in on the election

Four of our Afghani Observers, who have been to the polls today, explain how their country has changed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and what they're hoping to see from their next president.

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Posted on Flickr by From Afghanistan With Love

Four of our Afghani Observers, who have been to the polls today, explain how their country has changed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and what they're hoping to see from their next president.

There are 41 candidates in total, including current president and favourite to win, Hamid Karzai. His closest competitors are former Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah Abdullah, and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani.

The election is proving to be a far from peaceful affair. The Taliban have made various threats of attack in the past few days and called for a boycott of what they consider a "sham orchestrated by the Americans".

“There’s no one who can manage political stability better than Karzai”

Aziz Royesh is principle of Marefat High School in Kaboul.

I hope the elections will further strengthen the democratic culture of the country. During the first election, most people didn't really know what to do. This time, things are a bit different. They are following the debates between the candidates carefully, talking about their future, judging candidates by their previous performances, their approach to international relations, their personality, etc.

I'm not overjoyed by Karzai's policies and his attitude. I think he was relatively good during the transitional period, but he also lost precious opportunities for the country. However, I am going to vote for him. In politics you're dealing with reality. There may be a few intellectual candidates who would be regarded as good possibilities. But they are not well-known and would not get enough votes. In any case, I see political stability as my first priority. For the time being, there's no one who can manage that better than Karzai".

“Big cities like Kabul now have electricity 24 hours a day”

Yunos Bakhshi is the head of the Astronomy Association of Afghanistan.

We need a president who will tackle unemployment, the economy, and security.

Things have been changing in Afghanistan. Big cities like Kabul now have electricity 24 hours a day. We also have better access to media with 13 private TV channels opening, and to communication too, with cellular networks being set up across the country. The government is now planning on installing fiber optics to revolutionise long-distance phone calls, cable TV and the internet. On top of that, there have been repairs made to the damaged infrastructure, new roads have been built and a new parliament building erected.

This campaign has mobilised people. There have been some reports in the press about buying votes for 20 dollars, candidates organising parties in order to attract voters, giving out presents etc., but I've never witnessed any of these irregularities."

“If Karzai is re-elected, then it means that the American forces want to perpetuate instability in the region”

Aziz Jahed is chief of the Kabul parliament's department of finance.

I hope people are going to make the right choice in this election. If they choose Karzai then nothing will change because his aides are corrupt and violate human rights. If he's re-elected, then I believe it means that the American forces want to perpetuate instability in the region so they can keep a strategic presence in central Asia.

I'm going to vote for Dr. Ashraf Ghani because he is an honest man, serious and capable of both discipline and good management, as demonstrated when he was in charge of the ministry of finance. While the war's still going on, the Afghan people need a leader like him."

“How did violence rise at the same time as development?”

Masuda Sultan is Afghan-American and works as a government advisor in Kabul.

The next president should focus on security, development, resolving militia issues, fighting corruption and promoting the rights of women.

Nobody can say that nothing's changed in Afghanistan in the last few years. GDP has gone up, schools been opened, health improved. But on the other hand, violence has been rising too. How did violence rise at the same time as development? I suspect there are four reasons. The first; because some people, i.e. the Taliban, have been left out of the political equation, they've retaliated with brute force. The second, because the government has not been as far-reaching as it should have in its development strategy which has focused mainly on big cities like Kabul - so the people who were left-out also resorted to violence. The third, because the war has intensified due to a failed military strategy which resulted in an increase in the number of casualties. And finally, Afghanistan was somewhat forgotten about when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.

However, I don't think the Taliban will get back in power. It's true that they control conservative districts in the south through force, fear tactics and even sympathy from the local population, but they wouldn't be able to take power on a national level because of the presence of the international community and a strong opposition to them in other parts of the country."