Early today, Afghanistan hosted a historic election: the first democratic transfer of power in the nation’s history. Additionally, this was the first election Afghanistan conducted without the assistance of the United Nations. Afghans flocked to cast their votes for current-President Hamid Karzai’s successor, with hopes that the new president would bring increased security, better education, and better living conditions.
Many flocked to polling centers knowing their lives were potentially at risk, as the Taliban had threatened to disrupt the vote. On Friday a German journalist, Anja Niedringhaus, was killed when her car came under fire while traveling in a convoy of election workers; another journalist in the vehicle was seriously injured. Despite this and other violence, voter turnout was expected to be around 75 percent. (By comparison, US voter turnout in 2012 was below 60 percent.)
Heavy security was established to ensure the safety of voters. While there were some reports of violence, overall the vote appears to have been a success. In Kabul, cars were barred from the roads on election day.
Why is the Taliban so opposed to the vote? The stated reason is that the Taliban believes the election to be illegitimate, because of the continued presence of US forces in the country. But this is an excuse. I’m sure there are numerous reasons why the Taliban opposes the vote, but here’s two: First, President Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement with the United States which could result in the withdrawal of US troops by year’s end. The leading candidates, however, have all stated an intention to sign the agreement. This is a direct threat to the Taliban, who would have a much easier path to regaining control without the presence of US forces. Second, and more fundamental, is the Taliban’s intrinsic knowledge that its brand of hatred cannot sustain itself in a democracy. Democracy is a threat to the oppression it wishes to perpetuate.
Why do you think the Taliban is opposed to the elections? What do you think the high voter turnout despite the security concerns says for the direction the average Afghan wants to see his or her nation headed?
Photo Source: Sofia News Agency