Afghans vote amid fears of violence and alleged irregularities


>>Sreenivasan: SOME PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES IN THE AFGHAN ELECTION ARE ALREADY CHARGING IT WAS A FRAUDULENT PROCESS. TALIBAN ATTACKS ALSO DECREASED TURNOUT AND FORCED SOME POLLING PLACES TO STAY CLOSED. JOINING US NOW VIA SKYPE IS CRAIG NELSON, KABUL BUREAU CHIEF FOR THE “WALL STREET JOURNAL.” FIRST, IT IS UNFORTUNATELY COMMON FOR PEOPLE TO SAY THAT THE PROCESS IS FRAUDULENT. BUT FROM WHAT YOU CAN TELL AND ALL THE DIFFERENT MONITORS THAT ARE ON THE GROUND, HAS THIS BEEN A FAIR PROCESS SO FAR TODAY?>>IT’S REALLY NOT CLEAR. I THINK THERE’S BEEN SOME PROBLEMS WITH THE PROCESS, JUST THE VOTES, THE STAFF, THE ELECTORAL STAFF. WE WENT TO A POLLING STATION THIS MORNING, AND, AT 7:00, WHEN THE POLLS OPENED, AND THE ELECTION… THE ELECTORAL STAFF WASN’T EVEN THERE. AND THESE ARE USUAL PROBLEMS. THERE WAS A PROBLEM THIS AFTERNOON WITH VOTING LISTS AT ANOTHER POLLING STATION WHERE PEOPLE CAME IN AND LOOKED FOR THEIR… THEY THOUGHT THEY’D REGISTERED. THEY WERE SURE THEY REGISTERED. THEY HAD PROOF THAT THEY’RE REGISTERED, BUT THEY COULDN’T FIND THEIR NAMES ON THE VOTING LIST. SO, IS THAT FRAUD OR IS THAT SIMPLE, YOU KNOW, KIND OF SORT OF INEFFICIENCY AND INEPTITUDE THAT HAS SO CHARACTERIZED AFGHANISTAN ELECTIONS FOR A VERY LONG TIME? I THINK THAT THE OTHER PEOPLE, THOUGH, WILL MAKE THAT DETERMINATION. I THINK THE BIGGEST PROBLEM TODAY IS VOTER TURNOUT. VOTER TURNOUT SEEMS TO HAVE BEENEXTREMELYLOW. AND PRIVATELY, PRESIDENT GHANI’S PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT A MILLION, POSSIBLY A MILLION, MILLION-FIVE VOTER TURNOUT. AND THAT, OUT OF A POSSIBLE REGISTERED VOTERS OF 9.6 MILLION. AND THAT’S A VERY, VERY SMALL TURNOUT. AND THAT’S GOING TO CAUSE, AS MUCH AS ANYTHING, A KIND OF POLITICAL CRISIS THAT COULD BE COMING AROUND THE BEND.>>Sreenivasan: DOES THAT MEAN THAT HE HAS LESS OF A MANDATE AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE WITH THE TALIBAN?>>EXACTLY. EXACTLY. HE MIGHT HAVE TO GO TO A SECOND ROUND, WHICH WILL WEAKEN HIM EVEN FURTHER. AND, OF COURSE, HE TALKS ABOUT WANTING TO LEAD THE PEACE PROCESS NOW THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS TWEETED AN END TO U.S./ TALIBAN NEGOTIATIONS. PRESIDENT GHANI WANTS TO LEAD THOSE, AND HE COULD POTENTIALLY GO INTO THAT VERY, VERY WEAK. WE SAW… FOR EXAMPLE, WE WENT 50 MILES NORTH OF KABUL TODAY, AND WE WENT TO A POLLING CENTER WHERE THERE WERE 360 WOMEN REGISTERED TO VOTE. AND FIVE HOURS AFTER THE POLLS HAD OPENED, ONLY FOUR WOMEN HAD VOTED. THIS IS A CASE WHERE A LOT OF PEOPLE SEEM TO BE SAYING, “THIS VOTE ISN’T RELEVANT FOR US.” AND THAT’S A REAL SERIOUS SETBACK FOR THIS GOVERNMENT, WHICH IS GOING TO TRY TO BE NEGOTIATING A DEAL WITH THE TALIBAN; AND CERTAINLY FOR THE UNITED STATES, WHICH HAS INVESTED, YOU KNOW, ROUGHLY $1 TRILLION, AT LEAST, IN TRYING TO GET AFGHANISTAN… SOME DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS ESTABLISHED IN AFGHANISTAN.>>Sreenivasan: IN A WAY, THEN, DID THE TALIBAN SUCCEED IN INTIMIDATING ENOUGH PEOPLE TO STAY AWAY FROM THE POLLS, WHETHER IT WAS THROUGH THE VIOLENCE THAT WAS LEADING UP TO THIS OR JUST THE ACTUAL RESULT TODAY IF ALL THESE WOMEN OR MEN DON’T SHOW UP?>>YES, I THINK THE FEARS… WE WERE TOLD BY ONE VOTER AFTER ANOTHER THAT THEIR NEIGHBORS AND SO FORTH DIDN’T SHOW UP, ONE, OUT OF FEARS FOR THEIR SECURITY, AND TWO OUT OF APATHY. AND THERE’S ONE POSITIVE NOTE HERE IS THAT THERE WERE NO BIG SUICIDE BOMBINGS OR BIG, COMPLEX ATTACKS AND VEHICLE BOMBS FOLLOWED BY GUN FIGHTS. THE TALIBAN DIDN’T DO THAT. AND THAT’S A SORT OF SMALL SUCCESS IN THIS WHOLE THING BECAUSE EVERYBODY DID FEAR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. BUT THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT PUT 75,000 TROOPS AROUND THE COUNTRY TO GUARD POLLING STATIONS, AND THAT SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN QUITE SUCCESSFUL. BUT IN THE LONG-TERM, THE VOTER TURNOUT, THE PROBLEM WITH VOTER TURNOUT, THE APPARENTLY LOW VOTER TURNOUT IS GOING TO CAUSE A VERY GREAT PROBLEM FOR THIS GOVERNMENT.>>Sreenivasan: ALL RIGHT, CRAIG NELSON, THE KABUL BUREAU CHIEF FOR THE “WALL STREET JOURNAL,” JOINING US VIA SKYPE TONIGHT. THANKS SO MUCH.>>YOU’RE WELCOME.

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