Questions raised over Afghan women’s vote

Published on ABCnews, by Liam Cochrane for Radio Australia, Aug 26, 2009.

An observer of Afghanistan’s election says women’s votes were particularly vulnerable to manipulation in last week’s presidential poll.

Associate Professor Christine Fair, an expert on South Asia, travelled to kabul for the vote and claims voter registration cards were open for sale before the vote …

… She told Radio Australia’s Connect Asia: “There was an excessive number of female registration in places where, let me just put it mildly, women aren’t known to be liberated.  

“So it’s widely suspected that the female voting centres would be a place where you would see irregularity, because you would expect very low female turnout.

“Yet many women were registered.”

Because of such concerns, “we’re really going to have to be looking very carefully at the returns coming from those areas which are known to be insecure,” she said.

Observers would need to try “to see if the – how shall I put this delicately – ballots returned in any way, shape or form resemble the expected turnout.”

Professor Fair warned that while there were election observers, they “couldn’t go in the places that were most dangerous and most vulnerable to electoral misconduct.

“So, you don’t have someone standing out at the polling centre tracking how many women are going in in a minute.”

With full results not due until next month, the American monitor said: “It’s anyone’s guess how this is going to pan out.

“I don’t think that if Karzai were to come out with a majority that that would be viewed as credible, given all of the massive allegations of rigging.

“And to be clear, of course, [challenger Abdullah] Abdullah is also … accused of engaging in electoral irregularities himself.” (full text).

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