Saturday, April 5, 2014

Voter turnout lower in rural Afghanistan

The headline in today's New York Times is, "Apathy and Fear of Taliban Combine to Keep Rural Voters Away from the Polls."  Here is an excerpt from Azam Ahmed's story:  
While polling centers across Kabul and other Afghan cities were celebrating record turnouts on Saturday, Tahir Khan, a tribal leader in rural Nangarhar Province, experienced a very different Election Day. 
“It was a dead zone,” he said, referring to the eastern province’s Shinwar district. “All the polling centers were closed, and people hardly left their homes.” 
The truth in Shinwar, and in some other rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan where the insurgency is strongest, is that the Taliban did not have to pick up their rifles to disrupt the vote on Saturday. 
* * * 
The divide between urban and rural Afghanistan has always been profound. While cities like Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif continue to blossom into populous and relatively secure places, rural Afghanistan — and in particular the ethnic Pashtun countryside, where the Taliban are strongest — has largely been left behind. 
Ahmed quotes Graeme Smith of the International Crisis Group:  
In any country caught in the jaws of a growing war, a democratic process is necessarily going to be a political contest inside pro-government enclaves and doesn’t include great swaths of the country where people are still sending messages to fight the government.  
The election celebration in Kabul creates an impression of what’s happening in the country, but we simply do not know what’s been happening in the districts today.

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