According to Democracy International, the government of Afghanistan has decided to close 938 of 6835 centers, citing security concerns. Democracy in action (they have a very detailed analysis that is worth reading). Meanwhile, FEFA reports on the latest round of observing, from late June to mid-July:
During the first 3 weeks of campaigns, observers reported electoral violations and abuses of state resource by candidates, campaign staff, and government employees…
Government employees, including governors and ministerial officials, were observed campaigning for candidates in Badghis, Balkh, Daikundi, Helmand, Jowzjan, Kabul, Khost, Nuristan, Paktia, Panjshir, Takhar and Uruzgan during the first three weeks of the campaigns. Abuses of state property and resources generally accompanied the involvement of government officials in campaigns. At a campaign rally in Balkh, a public health official distributed insecticide to supporters of his favored candidate. In Jowzjan, a Ministry of Education official allowed his office to be used for campaign activities. A candidate in Heart distributed grain from the Ministry of Agriculture to internally displaced persons in an attempt to buy votes, and candidates in Nimroz used cars from the provincial governor’s office for campaign travel.
Campaigning was conducted in mosques and schools in the face of bans on the use of both venue types for campaign activities. Observers reported that mosques and schools were used by candidates to launch campaigns and rally supporters in Balkh, Daikundi, Faryab, Ghazni, Ghor, Kabul, and Kapisa. Where public schools were used for campaign activities, teachers and administrators were often relatives of candidates or were candidates themselves. In a particularly serious case reported by FEFA observers in Takhar, a public school principal urged her staff and students to vote for her in the election and distributed voter registration cards to underage students.
You can just smell the victory around the corner! And what’s amazing is, Afghanistan’s parliamentary process is probably the most functional aspect of its politics. And despite these two challenges, the election is probably going to be much more “legitimate” than the crap shoot last year for President. Truth be told, given Afghanistan’s security and economy, I’m amazed the elections are as freewheeling as they are—that’s actually a victory few seem willing or able to celebrate.