Afghanistan begins registering voters for 2009 election
By Jon Hemming
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan began registering voters on Monday for elections due next year that will test support for President Hamid Karzai and democracy itself which is threatened by a virulent Taliban insurgency in which thousands have died.
The lack of security could well derail the election process depending on how much the Taliban decide or are able to intimidate the people against participating, but early signs were the militants have already begun campaigning against the polls.
"Just now we have received some information that in some areas anti-government elements were trying to stop people from registering themselves as voters already," Zekria Barakzai, deputy head of the Independent Election Commission, told Reuters.
"They are preaching at the mosques asking people not to vote or register themselves," he said.
One truck carrying registration forms has already been torched in the northeast, but that may have been due to criminal activity, a security expert said.
Some 3,800 people, a third of them civilians, were killed in Afghanistan by the end of July this year, according to the United Nations, which says 40 to 50 percent of the country is now inaccessible to its aid activities.
For security reasons, registration is taking place in four phases, starting with 14 provinces in central and northeastern Afghanistan, then a month later in the north, then the more troublesome east and finally in the southern hotbed of the insurgency in January.
The recognition of old voter registration cards could also somewhat ease security problems as only new voters or those who have lost their old cards have to register themselves. Continued...