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Violence Delays Afghan Elections In Kandahar Province

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're hearing all morning about elections in the United States. Let's take a moment to check on democracy in Afghanistan. That country has been planning parliamentary elections this weekend. Most of the voting will proceed, but in a very large and populous province, the voting has been postponed. That after an attack that left two senior officials dead, including a top police chief. Pamela Constable covers Afghanistan for The Washington Post, and she's on the line. Welcome to the program.

PAMELA CONSTABLE: Glad to be with you.

INSKEEP: I guess we should figure out what was supposed to happen this weekend. What is the original plan? What's at stake? And what's the campaigning been like?

CONSTABLE: The original plan was to have a very big nationwide election, more than 2,500 candidates for 249 seats in Parliament, candidates of all flavors and philosophies. There was lots of excitement about the election, but also lots of concern and worry, partly because of threats by the Taliban which have now come true and partly with - widespread charges that there was going to be massive fraud. So you've seen a lot of positive campaigning, a lot of new fresh faces, a lot of enthusiasm, but also a great deal of worry and anxiety at the same time.

INSKEEP: So you've been reporting that in Kandahar Province, a really large and important province, the voting will be delayed for a week. But this does raise a question, what is possibly going to be any different in a week?

CONSTABLE: Right. And we don't know that. Obviously, this is a measure taken on an emergency basis just to sort of calm things down. I mean, Kandahar's a very large province which has just lost its police chief, its intelligence chief, and its governor has been gravely wounded. There's a huge security vacuum. People are very nervous and worried. So I think this is obviously a measure designed for short-term relief of that. Obviously, the decision will be made later on. I would think and hope that elections can be held there because it's, as you say, very populous, lots and lots of voters. But let's see what happens tomorrow. Let's see if there's violence elsewhere or not and to what extent that happens, how bad it is. I suspect, generally speaking, they're going to be taking things one day at a time here.

INSKEEP: Does it feel in the rest of the country, Pamela Constable, like a democratic process? Does it feel like you're in the middle of a real election campaign where the people's will might be expressed?

CONSTABLE: I do. It does. It's been a nice experience, so to speak, compared to previous elections here. You know, record numbers of candidates out and about, 400 women among the candidates, which is extraordinary for a very traditional society like this one. On the other hand, candidates, although they've been busy and active, have not been doing a lot of public campaigning. They've been prudent. They've been cautious. They've had inside events. They've had loudspeaker trucks. But you have not seen massive public rallies. Few have been held in the provinces, and some of those have been attacked. So - and as we mentioned earlier, 10 candidates have been killed.

INSKEEP: Wow. OK. Pamela Constable of The Washington Post in Afghanistan. Thanks so much.

CONSTABLE: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.