Saturday, Afghanistan will hold their second parliamentary elections since the Taliban lost power. Low turn-out is expected as Taliban violence towards candidates and campaign workers has been lethal in recent months. The Taliban have also reportedly made repeated threats to attack during the election. According to Reuters, the Independent Election Commission has reported that 1,019 of 6,835 polling centers will not open on Saturday due to an inability to ensure safety at the locations.
Staffan de Mistura, chief United Nations envoy in Afghanistan, told the Wall Street Journal, “As far as security is concerned, we’re finding ourselves in the worst period of 2010, and in the worst period of the recent years. It’s the worst possible moment and the worst possible country in which to organize an election.”
Five campaign workers who had been working for a woman parliament candidate were killed in Afghanistan’s Herat province in August. The workers had been campaigning for incumbent Fauzia Galani, who is one of the few women candidates in the upcoming September elections. Other recent incidents include the murders of at least four candidates.
In total, there are about 2,500 candidates, 385 of whom are women, running for the 249 seats in the lower house. Sixty-five of the seats are reserved for women. In last year’s presidential elections, women were unable to vote in some parts of Afghanistan and women’s voting cards were used to stuff ballot boxes in some polling locations. In some areas that are not controlled by the Taliban, women accounted for nearly 60 percent of voters. Women’s participation last year was particularly low in Taliban controlled southern regions and in places where segregated women-only polling places did not open due to lack of staff.