Just before the elections, people in the Eastern Province of Nangarhar in Afghanistan complained of a spurt in violence and government apathy, fearing that it may affect voter turnout.

But increased violence and constant threats from the Taliban did not deter residents of this remote village from participating in the presidential and provincial elections held on August 20.

Braving bad weather and rocket attacks, voters from Kodi Khel left their homes in mountainous valleys early in the morning for polling stations.

The Taliban tried its best to deter them. Several people were killed in the run-up to the elections.

Schools, government offices and homes of officials were targeted in an attempt to create a wave of fear among the electorate.

On the night just before the polling day, the Taliban distributed pamphlets in the area asking people not to venture out.

“This is not a real Afghan election, this is just a game by the invaders,” a village elder read out from one such pamphlet. By invaders the Taliban meant the Western forces operating on Afghan soil.

A stamp at the bottom read “Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan.”

“We knew the risks [involved in going to vote]. But someone said there would be more attacks and killings if we didn’t elect a president,” said Khan Mohammad, a resident of Kodi Khel, who was among the first from his village to cast his ballot.

“Once I voted, a lot of my family members and villagers followed.”

People here said they had encountered surprising problems once they reached the polling stations.

“The ballot paper was so long it took me 10 minutes to locate the election symbol of my candidate,” said Khalid Khan.

“It took me even longer to vote for the provincial council candidate.”

Some others said the long list of candidates was too confusing.

“In other countries, there are just two or three candidates in a [presidential] poll. I had to spend 20 minutes just to find Ramazan Bashardost in the list,” said Gul Rahim.

Mr. Bashardost is among the 30 candidates in the 2009 presidential election in Afghanistan.

In Kodi Khel, residents decided to stay awake the night before the polling day to guard the village and reassure the voters of their security.

But Taliban attacks and propaganda against the polls have had an effect.

“Female turnout was particularly very low, largely because of security concerns,” said Wali Shah of Kodi Khel.

“But male voters did turn out in large numbers,” he added.

In other villages of Sherzad district, violence did affect the voter turnout.

“Security concerns added to the people’s woes. They are not happy because they have not seen big changes in their lives [following the first presidential election in 2004]. So why vote?” asked another villager.

Accusations of fraud, ballot stuffing and other alleged irregularities in the polls are what dominate the conversation here these days.

“We want the election commission to decide,” said Ahmed Rahim, while listening to the news of the disputed results on radio.

He’s worried that continued uncertainty could lead to more trouble.

“We want our politicians to fight with words. Afghanistan needs peace, not war.” — © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

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