Dismay over sliding turnout for Afghan poll
Western observers reacted with embarrassment and dismay yesterday that turn-out in Afghanistan's parliamentary election was 20 per cent lower than in the presidential election last year. The election commission estimated turn-out as just over 50 per cent this year, down from 70 per cent last year.
The US military commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-General Karl Eikenberry, had rashly predicted a record turn-out ahead of the polls. Some suggested the lower figure meant Afghans were growing disillusioned with democracy less than a year into the experience.
Many Afghans braved threats and intimidation from the Taliban, who vowed to disrupt the elections. Although the Talian said they would not target polling stations, they were thought to have threatened voters in their heartlands in the west and east. Afghan women faced threats from hardliners who objected to women having the vote.
Turn-out may have been lower because Sunday's election will have no direct effect on who is president or on the make-up of the government. Afghanistan's political system is based on the US, with a separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. In last year's US presidential elections, turn-out was 60.7 per cent, but in 1998's election for Congress, when the presidency was not up for grabs, it was just 36.4 per cent -- far lower than in Afghanistan.