News reports indicate that at least 15 people died during election-related violence in Afghanistan on Saturday, where parliamentary elections were held. The Governor of Kandahar Province narrowly escaped a roadside bomb attack while traveling between polling locations, reported the Los Angeles Times. Throughout the country, dozens of rocket attacks targeted the polls. Turn-out was relatively low, as expected. More than 1,000 of nearly 7,000 polling centers did not open on Saturday due to an inability to ensure safety at the locations.
A record number of women ran for Parliament in this election. In total, approximately 385 of about 2,500 candidates, who ran for the 249 seats in the lower house were women. Sixty-five of the lower house seats are reserved for women. One woman candidate, former Olympic Athlete Robina Jalali, told the Express UK that “of course we are worried about losing our freedoms but if the Taliban accept the constitution, if they let women work and play sport and go to school and go to university, then we won’t have any problems with them.” She continued, “I was a champion athlete for 10 years but I am far more nervous about this than about my races. People must go out and vote to make sure that we get a true and representative result and that the country gets a chance to heal and to grow.”
The Free and Fair Election Foundation, which monitors Afghan elections, said in a statement that “Though there were numerous attacks, none were severe enough to disrupt voting on a wide scale,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
Taliban violence towards candidates and campaign workers has been lethal in recent months. 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 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. There is also preliminary evidence of voter fraud in Saturday’s election.