Kabul voters wrestle with newspaper-sized ballot paper

1 / 2
Election workers pull a cart loaded with biometric devices in Kabul. (AFP)
2 / 2
Employees of the Independent Election Commission take notes of sealed biometric device materials at a warehouse in Kabul. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
0

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.”


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
0

Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.