By M.E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KABUL, Afghanistan – As women lined up to cast their ballots at various national voting stations, the event was tarnished by fraud and corruption. One man cast 35 votes for female relatives. Others lugged in sacks full of voting cards they claimed had been collected from women voters. In a village of only 250 people, 200 women supposedly voted in three hours.
Unfortunately, these stories are not unfamiliar. In‘s recent in August, one very sensitive area was that of fraud as women exercised their right to vote. The same speculation and concern remains present as the election on November 7 draws near for the runoff between and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. Analysists are concerns as the stakes are so high.
Accepting the presence of fraud as it relates to allowing women to vote, the situation cannot be resolved in the weeks just before the election. There is a general acceptance of proxy voting by male relatives on behalf of female family members. In such circumstances, many women have expressed their reluctance to vote, primarily because of the threats of violence and polling centers that swarm with men. Further, those women who do brave the polling centers and are able to cast their ballots are often uneducated and therefore more easily manipulated.
Despite the uncertainty of how deeply rooted or how significant the impact of fraudulent women voting will be on the results in November, there is increasing speculation that women’s polling stations were more problematic than men’s since officials have not yet released the list of women’s polling stations.
This Photograph, taken August 20, 2009 shows Afghan women voters lining up to cast their ballots. Image Curtesy of Associated Press.
According to a U.N. report, back in August, men arrived at voting stations carrying and submitting hand-fulls of female voter cards. Poll workers permitted these ballots to be cast without argument. The report further revealed that in some cases, men dragged in sacks full of cards supposedly for their female relatives. Under this sort of sporadic and unregulated election scheme, Theresa Delangis, part of a team working on election issues with the U.N. women’s fund, commented, “It allowed for women’s votes to be manipulated. Block voting, proxy voting, or there were just no women at the polling stations and those ballots were used for fraudulent votes.”
Concern remains as observers indicate that Afghanistan is no more of a safer voting environment now than it was two months ago. Election officials claim they have plans to recruit more women, but there is no reported progress to-date, as government workers are apparently waiting on a report of gender related proposals to the voting process.
For more information, please see:
New York Times – Intimidation and Fraud Observed in Afghan Election – October 31, 2009
Yahoo! World News – Fraud surrounds women voters in Afghan election – October 30, 2009
Khaleej Times – Fraud surrounds women in Afghan election – October 31, 2009