A new poll indicates that only about a third of Afghans have any confidence that Saturday’s parliamentary elections will be “transparent and fair,” a serious paucity of confidence for what US officials are calling a very important election.
The pessimism is perhaps understandable, considering the massive number of fraudulent votes cast in last year’s presidential vote. Very little has changed in the meantime, except that the Karzai government has managed to cut the level of international oversight. Yet international concerns have focused almost exclusively on security.
And even here officials have remained optimistic about the vote despite large numbers of pre-vote kidnappings, and insist that the sites will be secure even though security forces were unable to stop the killing of at least five candidates and the kidnapping of two others.
But the reality is considerably less rosy, as security officials concede that roughly one in seven polling places won’t even open on Saturday because it is simply too dangerous.
Which could set up a dangerous repeat of last year’s vote, where massive numbers of phantom votes (in favor of President Karzai) were cast at polling places that locals say never even opened. With the polls pointing toward strongly rising discontent, another corrupt poll may well permanently damage the government’s credibility, and by extension the credibility of the NATO force that keeps them in power.