Candidates kidnapped on eve of Afghan elections

Militants kidnapped two parliamentary candidates and 18 election workers ahead of today's parliamentary elections in Afghanistan in the latest sign that the vote will be marked by bloodshed and intimidation.

Reports of violence across the country, government seizures of fake voter cards and observer accreditation badges, and the closure of polling stations deemed too insecure added to a gloomy prognosis for the ballot, which election officials hope will not be a repeat of last year's disastrous presidential ballot.

The Taliban have stepped up their intimidation campaign in recent days, posting threatening messages in "night letters" to hundreds of mosques across the country, promising punishment for anyone caught voting and warning of a tide of violence.

They claimed responsibility for abducting parliamentary candidate Abdul Rahman Hayat, and they were also blamed for kidnapping a second candidate's 10 campaign workers and eight election officials.

The rebels have already killed three candidates, and observers say at least 21 people have been killed in election-related violence ahead of the vote.

Although the results of the vote will have no immediate impact on the Nato mission to Afghanistan, attacks against the poll will offer an indication of how strong the Taliban insurgency is, and any evidence of electoral fraud will highlight government corruption.

"This is probably one of the worst places and the worst times to have an election anywhere in the world. We have to put it into perspective," said Staffan de Mistura, the top UN envoy to Afghanistan, in an attempt to lower expectations. He said that a turnout of between five and seven million people, out of roughly 11.4 million registered voters, would constitute a success.

But many potential voters are deeply disillusioned following last year's fraud-riddled presidential vote, and disgusted at the corruption within Afghanistan's political class. "I heard that thousands of fake voting cards have been discovered. This means there will be fraud and good people will not be elected," said Mohammed Zaman, a 38-year-old Kabul carpenter. "I don't want to endanger my life for a election in which there will be fraud."

"Democracy, what's that?" said Darya Khan, a 40-year-old driver. "I'm not going to vote, the people who get elected are just in it for themselves. They are not working to benefit the country, they are not thinking about the poor."

President Hamid Karzai himself warned that: "In Afghanistan under the circumstances we must expect there'll be irregularities, there'll be problems and allegations as well."

In Helmand province, where 9,500 British troops are deployed, officials said they had closed eight polling stations. Of the 138 polling stations there, 129 will open today. A total of 5,816 polling centres nationwide will open, but election officials said around 1,000 will not because they cannot be secured. Around 150,000 foreign troops and 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police will try to thwart the insurgents.

Richard Holbrooke, Washington's envoy to Afghanistan, conceded that the election would not be perfect. "You'll want to look at how much the Taliban are able to disrupt the ballot," he said. NATO's senior civilian representative, Mark Sedwill, said; "They [the Taliban] talk about the purpose of their insurgency being to get rid of international forces. Well, these elections are not about the international forces. These elections are about the Afghans themselves."

News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Dennis Rodman has confirmed he is not going to the Middle East to 'talk to with the leaders of Isis' as claimed in a recent satirical report
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam