High turnout reported in Kandahar despite fear of attacks

Afghan voters wait in line to cast their votes at a polling centre for the country's legislative election in Kandahar on October 27, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 27 October 2018
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High turnout reported in Kandahar despite fear of attacks

KABUL: Braving security threats, Afghan women and men came in droves to cast their votes on Saturday in southern Kandahar.
The ballot for parliamentary elections here had been delayed for a week after the brazen attack against Afghan and US military figures.
Long and separate queues involving women and bearded men, youths from both sexes and various walks of life, were formed outside polling stations, heavily guarded by security forces.
But poor management and other shortcomings were apparent, just as in last Saturday’s nationwide polls which were extended for an extra day in hundreds of stations, including Kabul.
“Some polling stations opened an hour and half late, some stations had not received polling materials, but the enthusiasm was very high among people despite the fear of attacks,” Rahmatullah, a resident, told Arab News by phone from Kandahar.
Some voters turned up at polling stations an hour ahead of the opening timing, officials said.
“People showed that they want change, and to bring change they can risk their lives too,” said Ahmadullah, a carpenter.
More than half a million people, many of them men, had registered for the elections, which had already been delayed by more than three years because of wrangling among government leaders and poor management.
The poll could not take place in two districts and some stations of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban guerrillas who were driven from power in a US-led attack in late 2001.
Thirteen of 111 in Kandahar’s candidates, running for 11 seats, are women.
Many shops and business were closed for the vote as security forces checked vehicles and individuals to deter Taliban attacks on stations.
Scores of people, many of them voters lost their lives last Saturday in Taliban attacks. Ahead of the ballot the government announced that due to security threats it could not hold elections in more than 2,000 stations.
Kabul had to delay the ballot in Kandahar for a week after the assassination of a top anti-Taliban commander in a brazen attack in the compound of Kandahar’s government as he walked with a group of top Afghan and US military officials, including Washington’s top commander for Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller.
Two other senior Afghan officials were also killed in the incident, which prompted Kabul to send commando troops to quell possible unrest.
There were no immediate reports of attacks by the Taliban during the voting in Kandahar. Officials said the government conducted a number of air strikes, resulting in the deaths of several dozens of suspected militants on the threshold of the elections.
The poll is crucial for Afghanistan’s political stability and US-led international efforts for consolidation of democracy as Taliban and Daesh militants gain ground in the country.
It will be followed by a presidential ballot in six months’ time when the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani, will stand for re-election.


UK govt insists suspension of Parliament was not illegal

Updated 3 min 10 sec ago

UK govt insists suspension of Parliament was not illegal

  • Government says a lower court was right to rule that Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was a matter of “high policy” and politics, not law
  • Opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament

LONDON: The British government was back at the country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, arguing that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament just weeks before the country is set to leave the European Union was neither improper nor illegal.
It’s the second day of a historic three-day hearing that pits the powers of Britain’s legislature against those of its executive as the country’s scheduled Brexit date of Oct. 31 looms over its political landscape and its economy.
Government lawyer James Eadie argued that a lower court was right to rule that Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was a matter of “high policy” and politics, not law. Eadie called the decision to shut down Parliament “inherently and fundamentally political in nature.”
He said if the court intervened it would violate the “fundamental constitutional principle” of the separation of powers between courts and the government.
“This is, we submit, the territory of political judgment, not legal standards,” Eadie said.
The government’s opponents argue that Johnson illegally shut down Parliament just weeks before the country is due to leave the 28-nation bloc for the “improper purpose” of dodging lawmakers’ scrutiny of his Brexit plans. They also accuse Johnson of misleading Queen Elizabeth II, whose formal approval was needed to suspend the legislature.
Johnson sent lawmakers home on Sept. 9 until Oct. 14, which is barely two weeks before Britain’s Oct. 31 departure from the EU. He claims the shutdown was a routine measure to enable his Conservative government to launch a fresh legislative agenda and was not related to Brexit.
Eadie rejected claims that the prime minister was trying to prevent lawmakers from blocking his Brexit plans.
He said “Parliament has had, and has taken, the opportunity to legislate” against the government, and would have more time between Oct. 14 and Brexit day. He said even if Parliament didn’t come back until Oct. 31, “there is time” for it to act on Brexit.
The prime minister says Britain must leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal. But many economists and UK lawmakers believe a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating and socially destabilizing. Members of Parliament have put obstacles in Johnson’s way, including a law compelling the government to seek a delay to Brexit if it can’t get a divorce deal with the EU.
Parliament’s suspension spared Johnson further meddling by the House of Commons but sparked legal challenges, to which lower courts gave contradictory rulings. England’s High Court said the move was a political rather than legal matter but Scottish court judges ruled Johnson acted illegally “to avoid democratic scrutiny.”
The Supreme Court is being asked to decide who was right. The justices will give their judgment sometime after the hearing ends on Thursday.
A ruling against the government by the 11 Supreme Court judges could force Johnson to recall Parliament.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, meanwhile, said Wednesday that the risk of Britain leaving the EU without a divorce deal remained “very real” because Britain had not produced workable alternatives to the deal agreed upon with the EU by ex-British Prime Minister Theresa May. That deal was repeatedly rejected by Britain’s Parliament, prompting May to resign and bringing Johnson to power in July.
“I asked the British prime minister to specify the alternative arrangements that he could envisage,” Juncker told the European Parliament. “As long as such proposals are not made, I cannot tell you — while looking you straight in the eye — that progress is being made.”
Juncker, who met with Johnson on Monday, told members of the EU legislature in Strasbourg, France, that a no-deal Brexit “might be the choice of the UK, but it will never be ours.”
The EU parliament on Wednesday adopted a non-binding resolution supporting another extension to the Brexit deadline if Britain requests it.
Any further delay to Britain’s exit — which has already been postponed twice — needs the approval of the 27 other EU nations.
Johnson has said he won’t delay Brexit under any circumstances — but also says he will respect the law, which orders the government to seek an extension if there is no deal by Oct. 19. He has not explained how that would be done.