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Afghans Vote Despite Attacks On Polling Stations


It's been a long road to get to this milestone in Afghanistan. There were 2,500 candidates trying for nearly 250 seats. I'm talking about parliamentary elections, their first in eight years. And the vote has been bloody, with many reports of violence at polling stations, including a suicide bomber in the capital, Kabul. Dozens are dead, but the vote went on. And to talk about the significance for America's longest-running war is reporter Jennifer Glasse. She is in Kabul. Thanks for being with us.

JENNIFER GLASSE: Good to be here, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So were people able to turn out to vote in large enough numbers, or did the violence keep them away?

GLASSE: You know, despite threats from Islamic State and from the Taliban, more than 3 million Afghans turned out on Saturday. And today, there are people lined up, waiting to vote. Certainly, some people will not get the opportunity to do that. Right now we've really only seen numbers from the big cities. And it's the rural areas where people are most at threat and maybe might feel most intimidated.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell me a little bit about the violence. What happened?

GLASSE: The biggest single attack was a suicide bomber here in Kabul. The suicide bomber, trying to get into a polling station, was stopped by a policeman. He detonated his explosive vest outside. In the north, there was shelling in Kunduz. We know that they burned down one polling center outside of Kunduz city. And there's been some irregularities, as well. One local strongman on the outskirts of Kabul brought his armed men in. He's a candidate, and he tried to prevent other people from getting to the polling station. So not by far the cleanest elections. The Afghan government has announced it's arrested a few dozen people for fraud and intimidation. They're trying to make sure that Afghans will have faith in this election.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the more hopeful signs, though, this time around is the number of women running, right? Over 400. What will this mean?

GLASSE: They are guaranteed 68 seats in the parliament for each province, but I think the real key has been the number of young people running. As you said, Lulu, there hasn't been parliamentary elections in eight years. The current parliament has been a frustration to many, almost a symbol of the corruption and patronage that has held Afghanistan back. And it was really interesting to see election observers at the polls. There were 400,000 of them - many of them there to support their own candidates to make sure that their candidates got a fair shake in these elections. The fact that so many young people and nonpoliticians were willing to put themselves out there, I think, shows that there's a new generation of Afghans trying to change things.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And just briefly, what does it signify that the vote was held after so very long? It's always important to remind people that this is a country in conflict, a conflict that the United States is involved in.

GLASSE: It is. And there was a lot of controversy about whether this vote should be held at all, but Afghan officials were adamant, and international officials were adamant that they were going forward with this vote. And I think today they might be happy with their decision. More than 3 million of 8.8 million registered voters coming out. They're trying to show that Afghanistan is making progress as it battles insurgents around the country. The Taliban are resurgent. Islamic State was against the vote. And yet, still, Afghans came out to exercise their civil right.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is Jennifer Glasse in Kabul. Thank you so much.

GLASSE: Great to talk to you, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jennifer Glasse
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