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

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.”

David Attenborough makes impassioned plea for natural world in Davos interview with Prince William

Updated 15 min 58 sec ago

David Attenborough makes impassioned plea for natural world in Davos interview with Prince William

DAVOS, Switzerland: Naturalist David Attenborough won a standing ovation from delegates at the World Economic Forum after warning them that the planet faces destruction if climate change is not dealt with imminently.

In an interview conducted by Prince William, Attenborough said it is “difficult to overstate the climate change crisis.”

He said humans have become “so numerous” and possess a “frightening” array of destructive mechanisms that “we can exterminate whole ecosystems without realizing.”

Attenborough was the star turn on the first day of the gathering of the business and political elites in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

Attenborough urged participants to preserve the childlike wonder with which they first encountered the natural world. “I don’t believe a child has yet been born who doesn’t look at the world around it with those fresh eyes and wonder,” he said. “If you lose that first wonder, you’ve lost one of the great sources of delight, and pleasure, and beauty in the whole of the universe,” he said.

“Caring for that brings joy and enlightenment that is irreplaceable.”

Nature filmmaking, he noted, has benefited immensely from the advance of technology. “The facilities we now have are unbelievable. We can go everywhere. We can to the bottom of the sea, we can go into space. We can use drones, we can use helicopters … we can speed things up, we can slow things down, and film in the darkness. The natural world has never been exposed to this degree before,” he said.

But with these technological advances came a growing awareness of the dangerous power in the hands of humanity. “When I started 60 years ago, in the mid-50s, to be truthful there was no one who thought we might annihilate the world. The notion that human beings might exterminate whole species seemed the exception. Now we are well aware that … we can do things to accidentally to destroy whole parts of the natural world and exterminate whole species,” Attenborough warned.

Even as the ready accessibility of nature programs and the ability of filmmakers to reach the remotest corners of the world have made it easier for people to learn about nature, humanity’s connectedness with the natural world is more tenuous than ever. “Now there are more people living in towns, in conurbations, than living in the wild,” said Attenborough. “The majority of people are out of touch to some degree with the richness of the natural world.”

The threat posed by anthropogenic climate change is “difficult to overstate,” he said. “We are now so numerous, so powerful, so all-pervasive, and the mechanisms we have for destruction are so frightening that we have really to be aware of the dangers,” he warned. Humanity has done “appalling damage upon marine life, the extent of which we don’t fully know,” said Attenborough.

“I think the paradox is that there’s never been a time when more people are out of touch with the natural world, and yet we have to recognize that every breath of air and every mouthful of food comes from the natural world – and if we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves. It’s not just beauty and wonder: it is essential to human life. We are in the danger of wrecking that. We are destroying the natural world, and with it, ourselves,” he said.

But his outlook is not pessimistic. “We are discovering more ways in which we can get in front of [the pending disaster]. The fact we are now beginning to get power directly from the sun, with no need to pollute the world with by-products of our devices, is becoming reality all over the world,” he said. “We have the power, we have the knowledge, to live in harmony with nature.”

Attenborough then previewed powerful scenes from his latest film, which will debut at the World Economic Forum. The scenes of an Arctic glacier calving, with skyscraper-sized blocks of translucent blue ice crashing spectacularly into turbulent seas, were shot, as Attenborough explained, by skilled teams on helicopters maintaining steady positions despite powerful and unpredictable updrafts. “Within 20 minutes,” Attenborough narrates,” 75 million tons of ice break free.”

Attenborough is spearheading efforts to strengthen conservation efforts for a summit in Beijing in 2020.

Attenborough told the audience that, “Every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food comes from the natural world and that if we damage the natural world we damage ourselves.”