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Millions Of Afghans Vote In Violence-Marred Elections

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Afghanistan voted over the weekend - or most of it did. The killings of top officials in one major province forced a delay there. But the rest of the country cast ballots for Parliament. Pamela Constable of The Washington Post joined us on Friday just before the voting, and now she's back. Hi, Pam.

PAMELA CONSTABLE: Hi, how are you?

INSKEEP: OK. Thank you very much. What was voting day like?

CONSTABLE: Well, it was pretty chaotic. Every polling place I visited in the capital and dozens of polling places across the country reported large problems with disorganization, unprepared polling officials, lost materials, biometric equipment that didn't work, very, very, very long lines. Many of the polls opened three, four, five hours late. Some did not open at all. So it was a well-intentioned effort, but the practical results were pretty chaotic.

INSKEEP: Is it clear that enough ballots were cast in a legitimate way that this will feel like a legitimate result?

CONSTABLE: That's a good question, and I can't answer it yet because as you mentioned, you know, a large number of voters in one province, Kandahar, where there were some serious killings in the past few days, has - have been delayed for one week. And in a second province, Ghazni, where there have been recent attacks as well, that voting has also been delayed.

So you've got two provinces where the voting hasn't even happened yet, and you also have dozens of - possibly even hundreds of polling stations both in Kabul and elsewhere where people had to vote yesterday - a second day of voting because the polls never opened on election day itself. And election officials say there are not going to be any results of any significance for weeks and possibly even for a couple of months.

INSKEEP: Wow. So we have no idea who won these elections and - given that they're not even quite over. But let me ask you about what the winners will face. We should note people know from a distance that Afghanistan has had a very powerful president to the extent that it's had a central government at all. And of course a lot of decisions in some cases are in the hands or influenced by the United States, influenced by allies or, for that matter, influenced by the Taliban, which controls portions of the country. Will this parliament, once it's seated, have much to say? What will their role be?

CONSTABLE: That's also a good question. I think and I hope that the country is in for a change. When I was reporting from the campaign, interviewing candidates and interviewing voters, I found an enormous amount of - a surprisingly large amount of enthusiasm and hope that this election actually would bring change in the parliament itself - young people voting, young people running, more educated people voting and running and a lot of hope to sort of - out with the old faces, in with the new. So I think there is still hope for that.

INSKEEP: Pamela Constable of The Washington Post, always appreciate your insights. Thanks so much.

CONSTABLE: You're very welcome.

INSKEEP: She's in Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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