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April 12, 2014

In Our Opinion: Afghan vote says a lot about them ... and us

In November of 2012, a presidential election was held in the United States.

The weather might not have been ideal in some locales, and there were undeniable voter suppression efforts by Republican governors and legislatures in some states that made for some very long lines at a lot of polling places. But by and large, it you were determined to vote, no one was going to stop you.

An estimated total of 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Last Saturday, a presidential election was held in Afghanistan.

An estimated 60 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Yes, a higher percentage there than here.

If you wanted to vote in Afghanistan, the ruthless, fanatical Taliban tried to stop you.

According to Afghan Interior Minister Mohammad Umer Daudzai, 20 people were killed in that country Saturday, including seven members of the military, nine police officers and four civilians.

In Taliban attacks on voting centers, 43 people were wounded, Daudzai said. Forty-three people — mostly civilians — were wounded in attacks targeting voting centers. Afghan security forces prevented several other attacks on voting areas and killed more than 80 insurgents, he said.

A suicide bomber in the province of Khost blew himself up near a polling center, and about 1,000 polling sites were closed because officials feared violence.

And yet, more Afghans voted in their election than Americans did in ours.

“See, wonderful people are coming to practice democracy,” Afghan lawmaker Shukria Barakzai told CNN. “We are not afraid of the threats. As much as they kill us, we get more stronger. As much as they killed our children, our journalists and innocent women, we say no, we will go and vote because we are fed up. We want to see real change; we want to enjoy our democracy.”

This wasn’t a government-engineered fake election like you used to see in Iraq when 100 percent of the “voters” chose Saddam Hussein. The candidate backed by outgoing President Hamid Karzai came in a distant third. Neither was it a good showing by an ultra-religious faction. Abdul-Rasul Sayyaf, who described himself as “religious scholar,” got only 5 percent of the vote.

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