Minister of Interior Omer Daudzai on Saturday said security officials had completed their nationwide assessments in preparation for the June 14 runoff election, and can assure the election commissions, candidates and voters that security precautions are well underway.
Afghan officials and military experts have warned that the runoff round would likely face greater security threats than the first round did in April. In part, they say, this is because the spring-summer annual fighting season is in now in full-swing. Friday’s suicide-bombing attack on presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah’s motorcade in downtown Kabul seemed to confirm those fears.
“In comparison to the first round of the elections, threats will be higher during this round; there is no doubt about that,” Minister Daudzai said on Saturday.
But the top police official in Afghanistan, and former Ambassador to Pakistan, expressed confidence that the Afghan security forces would be up to the task. The Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan National Army (ANA) and other armed services of the country have been praised by Afghan and foreign officials alike over the past year for their progress in assuming oversight of national security and combating the Taliban insurgency.
Militant leaders have promised to derail the election process, which they have called a waste of time. In the lead up to the April 5 vote, the Taliban launched a bloody offensive against election officials, journalists and Afghan civilians. But their attack on the Serena Hotel, in which nearly the entire family of prominent Afghan journalist Sardar Ahmad was gunned-down, including his young children, sparked outrage and defiance among Afghans, rather than the fear that was intended.
Looking to inspire a similar sentiment leading up to the runoff, Minister Daudzai called on Afghans to vote as a way of sticking it to the Taliban. “Voting will be a way to reject the Taliban and terrorists,” he said.
Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai responded to the Interior Ministry’s announcement on Saturday by imploring security personnel working for the election to remain impartial. He referred to a recent presidential decree from Hamid Karzai for support.
“In accordance with the presidential decree to the Afghan Security Forces, they need to be impartial, and just as the Ministry of Interior and their colleagues assured of us of impartiality last time, we need to be assured this time as well.”
In 2009, the presidential election was marred by fraud, and much of it was committed by local security personnel. Yet, during this year’s first round in April, it was election employees, not the security forces, that threatened the credibility of the vote.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has admitted over 5,0000 employees were involved in fraud in the first round. Although those staffers have been replaced for the runoff, on Saturday, IEC Chairman Ahmad Yusuf Nooristani turned to observers for support.
“We ask national and international observers to perform their duties on Election Day carefully, they should not commit fraud and should prevent others from committing fraud.”