Saturday, September 17, 2005

Afghanistan votes

In historic parliamentary and local elections, Afghans will elect a national parliament and provincial assemblies tomorrow, the last formal step toward democracy laid out after U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban in 2001. About 2,760 candidates are running for 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, parliament's lower house; 68 seats are reserved for women and 10 for Kuchi nomads.

More than 3,015 candidates are running for a total of 420 seats in 34 provincial councils. A quarter of the seats are reserved for women.

The 12.5 million registered voters — nearly 42 percent women — will cast ballots at 6,270 polling centers. The 40 million ballots range from one to seven pages. Because many Afghans are illiterate, they will feature photographs and symbols for candidates.

From kabul, Time Magazine's Tim McGirk reports on tomorrow's elections and also the problems that still exist on Afghanistan's path toward democracy:

After suffering through coups, foreign invasions and civil war and the rise and fall of the Taliban, Afghan men and women at last are able to choose their own leaders. The transition will be choppy; no Afghan wants to readily share power with another, and many of the candidates are tied to warlords or powerful clans and tribes with narrow rather than national interests. Parliament could well resemble the national game of Buzkashi, in which it's every rider for himself, fighting over a dead goat...