Kabul voters wrestle with newspaper-sized ballot paper

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Election workers pull a cart loaded with biometric devices in Kabul. (AFP)
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Employees of the Independent Election Commission take notes of sealed biometric device materials at a warehouse in Kabul. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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Kabul voters wrestle with newspaper-sized ballot paper

  • Each voter can only choose one candidate, but finding them on Kabul’s giant ballot paper could be time consuming
  • More than 1.6 million votes are up for grabs, more than any other province

KABUL: More than 800 faces, 15 pages, one vote. Kabul voters will wrestle with newspaper-sized ballot papers on October 20, racing to find their candidate in a city under constant threat from militant attacks.
The huge number of parliamentary hopefuls vying to represent Kabul province, where around one-fifth of Afghanistan’s population lives, is the highest of anywhere in the country.
The candidates account for almost a third of the more than 2,500 people contesting long-delayed elections for Afghanistan’s lower house, or Wolesi Jirga.
Each voter can only choose one candidate, but finding them on Kabul’s giant ballot paper, which is roughly the size of a tabloid newspaper, could be time consuming.
It is hardly ideal when the risk of the Taliban or the Daesh group attacking polling centers is high.
Militants have vowed to target the ballot and those organizing it, calling the polls a “malicious American conspiracy.”
To make the process easier and faster for voters, candidates are advertising their numerical position and ballot page number — along with their often digitally enhanced photos — on campaign posters on lamp posts, billboards and blast walls around the province.
The key numbers appear alongside symbols such as palm trees, lions or spectacles, used by each candidate to enable illiterate voters to identify them.
With lofty promises of pushing for “change,” “justice” and even making “streets from gold, schools from diamonds and universities from emeralds,” candidates are locked in a fierce battle for the 33 seats allocated to Kabul.
More than 1.6 million votes are up for grabs — more than any other province — according to Independent Election Commission (IEC) voter registration data.
But many suspects that a significant number of those may be fake, created by fraudsters using counterfeit identification documents that could be used to stuff ballot boxes.
Biometric verification machines designed to prevent people voting more than once are scheduled to be used — but there are fears these may not arrive at polling centers in time, or fail to work.
An eleventh-hour decision to use the devices for the first time in an Afghan election has left beleaguered organizers scrambling to import and distribute them to more than 5,000 polling centers ahead of the vote.
While Afghan law does not require the use of biometric verification, votes cast without it will not be counted, IEC spokesman Sayed Hafizullah Hashimi said.
Despite the unusual size of Kabul’s ballot paper — and the potential for hundreds of thousands of votes to be cast — Hashimi said regular boxes would be used to collect ballots on election day.
“We have around six million people (in Kabul) — it is very populated,” Hashimi said.
“If the boxes fill up, we have reserve boxes.”


Africa’s youngest billionaire free 9 days after abduction

Updated 12 min 29 sec ago
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Africa’s youngest billionaire free 9 days after abduction

  • Dar es Salaam Regional Police Chief Lazaro Mambosasa confirmed the release and said authorities continue to investigate
  • Forbes magazine in 2016 put Dewji's wealth at $1.5 billion

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania: The man described as Africa's youngest billionaire said Saturday he is free more than a week after his abduction from a luxury hotel in Tanzania's commercial capital, while police suggested his captors came from South Africa.
"I thank Allah that I have returned home safely," said a statement released by the 43-year-old Mohammed Dewji's foundation. It did not give details about the Oct. 11 abduction or what led to his release but thanked police for working for his safe return.
Dar es Salaam Regional Police Chief Lazaro Mambosasa confirmed the release and said authorities continue to investigate. There was no mention of a ransom being paid.
"We got information that the abductors used the same car that was used to seize him at the Colosseum Hotel and dumped him at gymkhana (sports facility) grounds," Mambosasa said. "We found him there physically fit, and we suspect that the abductors are South Africans because he said they were communicating in one of the vernacular from that country."
Environment Minister January Makamba, in a statement posted on Twitter, said he had spoken with Dewji and "he's the usual Mo. So he is okay."
Dewji, while arriving at the hotel for a workout, had been seized by two masked gunmen who fired into the air before driving away. Regional authorities said two white men were seen on surveillance video and quickly tightened controls at border posts and airports.
Forbes magazine in 2016 put Dewji's wealth at $1.5 billion.