Millions of Afghans boycott elections for fear of Taliban

A security personnel stands guard as election commission workers unload ballot boxes from a truck to be taken to a counting center in Kabul. (AFP)
Updated 30 September 2019

Millions of Afghans boycott elections for fear of Taliban

  • Over 9.6 million had registered to vote to choose country’s next president

KABUL: Millions of  people cast their votes in Afghan presidential elections on Saturday although the turnout indicates a drastic drop from the nearly 7 million who voted in 2014, officials told Arab News on Sunday.

“We have counted ballots of 2,597 centers from total of 4,905,” Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission (IEC) told Arab News.

Millions of people came out to vote despite repeated warnings by the Taliban that they would target election centers, calling it “the sham process under US occupation.”

The threat forced many from taking part in polls which also saw a series of irregularities, depriving hundreds of thousands of their votes. Although incidents of violence were lower than during previous elections, dozens of civilians and security forces lost their lives in Taliban attacks on Saturday.

Over 9.6 million people had registered to vote, but predictions suggest turnout may not go beyond 2.2 million.

One prominent newspaper, the Daily Weesa, reported: “The nation practically boycotted the polls.”

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Security threats forced many people from taking part in polls which also saw a series of irregularities, depriving hundreds of thousands of their votes.

Another newspaper, Etalaat Roz, termed the irregularities and people being prevented from voting as “unjustifiable” while Mandegar Daily said that the low turnout had increased the level of fraud and violations.

The Afghan Analyst Network, a foreign funded thinktank, concluded after thorough research that the turnout was poor, saying: “The number suggests a low level of turnout in a country where more than 9 million people are registered to vote.”

The front-runners are incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who have both shared power after the deeply contentious polls of 2014 under a US-brokered deal.

Some candidates have complained of fraud committed by supporters of Ghani and Abdullah.

The British Embassy in Kabul urged nominees to avoid claims of victory and accusations of fraud without solid proof.

“All candidates and their supporters should refrain from premature claims of victory or unsubstantiated allegations of fraud,” it said in a statement.

The election, the fourth set of presidential campaigns since the fall of the Taliban, cost nearly $150 million and was largely covered by Afghan tax payers in a poor country that relies on foreign troops for its security and economy.

Some lawmakers and politicians complained about the irregularities that occurred during the voting day, having twice been postponed over poor management and because of ongoing talks between Taliban and US diplomats in Doha.

“With such a high amount of people we could have convened a far better election. This is in no way satisfactory for the people,” Fatima Aziz, a lawmaker from Kunduz, told Arab News.


UK police arrest man after stabbing at London Central Mosque

Updated 5 min 19 sec ago

UK police arrest man after stabbing at London Central Mosque

  • Victim was treated by paramedics before being taken to hospital
  • Man who was attacked in his 70s and stabbed multiple times

LONDON: A man attacked the elderly muezzin at one of London’s main mosques on Thursday, stabbing him in the neck before being arrested.

Metropolitan Police said they were called to London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park after reports of a stabbing.

Police were called to London Central Mosque, also known as Regent's Park mosque, on the city's Park Road to reports of a stabbing. (James Stringer/Flickr)

The attack targeted the muezzin, who performs the mosque’s call to prayer, the Muslim hate crime monitor TellMAMA, said. 

The man who was attacked is in his 70s and was stabbed multiple times, Sky News reported.


He was treated by paramedics before being taken to hospital. His injuries are thought to be non-life threatening.

Police said a man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder and a crime scene was put in place.

Video showed police subduing a man inside the mosque before leading him away in handcuffs. He was wearing a red hooded top and no shoes. 

Director-general of the Islamic Cultural Centre, part of the mosque, Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan described the attack and the emergency services’ response while confirming the victim was in a good condition.

He told Arab News: “We don’t have any information about the motive for this incident, why he did this or who he is even.

“Of course, we are unhappy about what happened, but we all hope that it was an individual attack and nothing linked to anything further than this attack itself.

“But we are worried and sorry about what has happened.” 

A makeshift area for sunset prayers was set up in the mosque so that worshippers could still pray despite the incident.