Afghans ignore Ghani’s appeals on poll vote

In this file photo, Afghan employees of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) register a resident at a voter registration center for the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections in Kabul. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Afghans ignore Ghani’s appeals on poll vote

  • A week after the voter registration process began, public turnout remains low.
  • Between 10 and 13 million Afghans out of the country’s estimated 30 million population are eligible to vote in the parliamentary and provincial council elections.

KABUL: Afghans appear to be ignoring President Ashraf Ghani’s pleas for people to register to vote in long-delayed elections set for Oct. 20.
A week after the voter registration process began, public turnout remains low.
Between 10 and 13 million Afghans out of the country’s estimated 30 million population are eligible to vote in the parliamentary and provincial council elections.
But so far the turnout in Kabul and other major cities may be as low as 113,000, officials believe.
Anyone failing to register before the government’s deadline in two weeks will be unable to vote. Mosques and schools have been turned into voting registration centers.
“We have had only a handful of people in this center since morning,” said Inamaullah, an official in the north of the capital.
Poor security and a lack of trust in the election process are being blamed for the poor turnout.
Many people have also expressed disappointment in the government for failing to deliver on basic election promises.
The slow pace of registration forced Ghani to appeal to officials and the country’s population to register.
“Today I spoke with the governors of 34 provinces and commanders of the armed forces … to speed up the voter registration process,” the leader of the joint National Unity Government said in a statement on Thursday.
“I asked the governors to direct civil servants and their family members who are eligible to vote to take part in this critical process.”
Ghani also told the Minister of Hajj Awqaf to ensure that prayer leaders encouraged people to take part in the voter registration process.
“I have directed the relevant officials to provide women with the necessary facilities to participate in voter registration, and I instructed security forces to safeguard polling stations,” the president said.
The British ambassador to Kabul was among foreign diplomats who urged Afghans to register and vote.
“I encourage all Afghans to take this opportunity to use their democratic right to perform their civic duty,” Nick Kay said in a video message posted on social media.
Ghani and his wife, Rula Ghani, were among the first to register.
The Afghan leader even urged Taliban militants to register and campaign for the elections — a call that was rejected.


Pyongyang hits Pence ‘stupid’ remarks, threatens to quit summit

Updated 2 min 21 sec ago
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Pyongyang hits Pence ‘stupid’ remarks, threatens to quit summit

TOKYO: North Korea has renewed its threat to pull out of a summit next month with President Donald Trump, saying it is just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.
Pyongyang’s latest salvo follows recent comments by US Vice President Mike Pence suggesting the North may end up like Libya if it doesn’t move forward with denuclearization.
Choe Son Hui, the vice minister of foreign affairs, was quoted Thursday by the North’s state-run news agency slamming as “ignorant” and “stupid” comments Pence made in an interview with Fox News that compared North Korea to Libya, saying they showed he does not understand North Korea’s situation.
She also questioned whether the summit, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, would be worthwhile if the remarks reflect Washington’s position.
“We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us,” KCNA quoted her as saying. “Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.”
The summit plan has hit a number of speed bumps recently as both sides have begun taking tougher positions and trading barbs. Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday at the White House for consultations and suggested the summit could be delayed. But the US says it is still working on making it happen.
Choe, a veteran diplomat and former head of the North America desk at the Foreign Ministry, was responding to comments Pence made to Fox News this week that it would be a “mistake” for the North Koreans to think they can “play” Trump. Pence said both the Clinton and Bush administrations had been “played” by the North Korean government.
“We offered concessions to the North Korean regime in exchange for promises to end their nuclear weapons program, only to see them break those promises and abandon them,” he said, adding that if Pyongyang does not go along with talks to give up its nuclear weapons, Washington could return to the “Libya model.”
That suggestion, which was made earlier this month by National Security Adviser John Bolton and also sparked an outraged response from the North, is especially inflammatory to Pyongyang.
The Libya model refers to negotiations in 2004 that led to the shipping of nuclear components to the US from Libya under Muammar Qaddafi. But in Pyongyang’s mind the most important part of the story is what came after that. Qaddafi was deposed after a 42-year reign and killed in 2011 — the year Kim assumed power in North Korea — while his country spiraled into chaos.
“In view of the remarks of the US high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us,” she said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name.
She added: “To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.”
How seriously the North would really consider calling off the summit isn’t entirely clear, however.
Meeting with Trump as an equal on the world stage would be an important moment for Kim and Choe couched her statement carefully, noting that she would only recommend the North Korean leader withdraw from the meeting if Washington “clings to unlawful and outrageous acts.”
North Korea was also expected to go through with a major gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit by dismantling its nuclear test site. The North, which has vowed to stop all underground nuclear testing and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, has invited foreign media to the remote site to observe a ceremony to mark the closing.
The ceremony was expected to be held Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather.