Taliban cut off fingers of 2 Afghan voters

Taliban militants cut off the ink-stained fingers of two Afghan voters in the militant south during the presidential election, the country’s top election monitoring group said Saturday.

Two voters who had dipped their index fingers in purple ink — a fraud prevention measure — were attacked in Kandahar province shortly after voting Thursday, said Nader Nadery, the head of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan. Kandahar is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban.

Rumors that militants would cut off voters’ ink-stained fingers spread before the vote. A Taliban spokesman had said militants would not carry out such attacks, but the Taliban is a loose organization of individual commanders who could carry out the threat on their own.

Millions of Afghans voted in the country’s second-ever direct presidential election, although Taliban threats and attacks appeared to hold down the turnout, especially in the south where President Hamid Karzai was expected to run strongly among his fellow Pashtuns. At least 26 Afghan civilians and security forces died in dozens of militant attacks.

If results show that vastly more people voted in the north than the south, “then we will have an issue,” Nadery said.

Fewer votes in the south would harm the chances of Karzai to win a second five-year term, and increase the chances that his top challenger, former Foreign Minster Abdullah Abdullah, could pull off an upset.

If neither candidate gets 50 percent in the first round, they will go to a second round runoff. Initial preliminary results won’t be announced until Tuesday, and final results won’t be certified until mid-September.

Nadery said his group saw widespread problems of election officials who were not impartial and were pressuring people to vote for certain candidates.

Election monitors also saw voters carrying boxes of voter cards — so many votes could be cast — to polling sites and saw many underage voters, he said.

Both Karzai and Abdullah claimed to be ahead in early vote counting. Karzai’s campaign insisted Friday he would have enough votes to avoid a runoff. Abdullah countered that he was leading but suspected there would be a runoff.

Election officials called on the candidates to refrain from such claims, which could delay the formation of a new government.

Officials of Afghan and international monitoring teams agreed it was too early to say who won or to know whether fraud was extensive enough to affect the outcome. Fraud complaints are being filed with a commission that will rule on all allegations.

Though monitors with the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan were present in all 34 provinces, international monitoring groups were restricted by security concerns. The Washington, D.C.-based National Democratic Institute only had observers in 19 provinces, passing over many violent areas of the south and east.

European Union observers had difficulty getting to polling stations in southern Kandahar province because of rocket attacks, said Sandra Khadhouri, a spokeswoman for the delegation. The EU had observers in 17 provinces.

“That elections took place at all is a notable achievement,” the EU said in a statement. The delegation said threats and violence meant that voting could not be considered free “in some parts of the territory” but that the process so far appeared “good and fair.”

The National Democratic Institute also said it saw orderly voting, but refrained from issuing a judgment on the election until after counting is completed.

Comment – August 22, 2009

Interesting contrast here: note the distinct difference between the Western media feeding frenzy over alleged vote rigging in Iran’s recent elections with the above report. There have indeed been accusations of voting irregularities in the elections in Afghanistan but that’s not the issue in this report.

Instead it concentrates on how the Taliban have been intimidating voters and makes only passing reference to vote fraud.

This is propaganda in its most modern and to date most convincing form where apparently objective reporting is anything but.

The key to modern propaganda is not necessarily in outright lies, which are all too obvious, but in subtle insinuation: the amount of print space, airtime or emphasis given to a particular point rather than blatant untruths.

Thus the above report concentrates on how the Taliban are intimidating voters. It’s not an outright lie but it avoids giving too much emphasis to allegations of vote rigging and helps explain the low voter turnout.

Once upon a time there was a name for this. Not propaganda as such or even lying, but brainwashing.