‘Down with corruption!’ ‘Freedom for Afghanistan!’ ‘Work for everyone!’
The slogans being trumpeted ahead of this weekend’s parliamentary polls are plastered across peeling facades, lamp posts and telephone poles around Kabul's noisy streets. The colourful ‘electoral bombing’ of campaign posters is so overwhelming in the Afghan capital that it’s almost impossible to focus on just one face and slogan.
Many Afghans, though, don’t have to—they’ve already picked their choice for Saturday's election.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
‘I’ll vote for Nazar Mohammad Popal’, says Ismatullah, the owner of a computer store in Kabul City Centre—the largest shopping mall in Kabul (though it’s still under construction). The 31-year-old Pashtun has chosen a candidate from his own ethnic group and one almost the same age—two criteria Ismatullah says helped him find someone he could identify with. But what does Nazar Mohammad Popal stand for?
‘As to any true Afghan, religion is my first priority but economy comes immediately afterwards,’ says Popal from his cosy house in central Kabul. The 30-year-old candidate says he’d like to see the Coalition forces take responsibility for their mistakes, but he also notes several other reasons why the conflict is still raging in his country.
‘The Taliban have become stronger in the poorest areas because they offer salaries to their fighters of between $200 and $300 a month. The local police get just $150,’ explains the candidate, wearing the same black turban as featured in his campaign poster. Like Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Popal is also a native of Kandahar.
Independent candidate Mohamed Wali Ahmadi, however, doesn’t agree. ‘Both Karzai’s and the Coalition forces management have been impeccable,’ he says. ‘If we have so many problems today it’s simply due to the constant interference from Iran and Pakistan.’