08/18/2009, 00.00
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The vote in Afghanistan: amid fear of having a hand cut off and widespread illiteracy

In a country torn apart by attacks, sources describe the climate to AsiaNews, two days ahead of the vote. A country where social services flounder and the population follows the election campaign with little hope of any real change.

Kabul (AsiaNews) - "The real problem of election is how many will vote. The Taliban never make empty threats. Today’s four rocket attacks against the presidential palace and the police headquarters prove they can arrive wherever they want. It is not difficult to obtain a permit to pass through all checkpoints”.   Two days ahead of presidential elections in Afghanistan, sources tell AsiaNews about the problems plaguing the vote, beyond the debate about who will win.

The capital was hit hard twice in three days, with the rocket attacks on August 15against NATO and those of today. But our source says that it is not difficult to pass through the checkpoints with counterfeit documents.

"The people are really concerned by the Taliban threat to cut off fingers, nose and ears of those who vote - says the source, who requested anonymity - and they wonder is it worth the risk". "Even so - he continues - the elections are being followed with some degree of scepticism by most of the population, who believe little will change, whoever wins. Let us be honest and ask ourselves: what benefits have the people seen since 2002? "

In areas essential to democracy, such as health, public services and education, improvements have been modest and are confined mainly to Kabul and other major cities. In the provinces the State has done very little, much less still than private groups.  

"But a lot of money arrived: at least according to what the newspapers say; they report continuing donations from governments and international bodies. But no one says how or where the money is spent, not even the main candidates for president will say, although they include the current President Karzai, the former Foreign Minister Abdullah and ex Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. Meanwhile, those who are rich become richer; the population sees luxury villas sprout like mushrooms on the outskirts of Kabul and elsewhere”. Widespread corruption is another of the ills that plague the country.

The walls of the city are covered by campaign posters, with candidates trying to show off their face and name to the population. Instead almost all the newspapers devote large space to President Karzai in particular. But analysts believe that another determining factor is the widespread illiteracy, reliable estimates indicate that around 90% of the population cannot read or write.


"It is highly probable that many will follow the lead of the tribal chief - says our source - or eminent personalities of different ethnic groups. Then there are also the important alliances: at the beginning there were 86-87 candidates, each with its own following, although many have since abandoned the campaign. But the ethnic component will be important".

Among the major candidates, Abdullah is a Tajik, Barshadost Ramazan is a Hazara, Karzai and Ashraf are Pashtun. Estimates say that Karzai will not win outright in the first ballot and a run-off will have to be held.

"The important thing is that we do not create a situation like that of the presidential elections in Iran, two months ago."

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