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In Afghanistan election, a key test for fighting corruption

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“It’s going to be a waste of time,” says Zabiullah Sakhizada, a driver in Kabul who says he isn’t voting this time. “The last election between Abdullah Abdullah and President Karzai made me think I am done with it…. It was proved that Karzai did fraud, but still he won.”

Some improvements have been made to the election system this time around.

Last time, much of the manipulation was found to have been committed at all levels of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), the body running the elections. In response, the IEC chief was replaced with someone who has won respect among international experts.

Some 6,000 election workers were not rehired. And in an effort to break up any corrupt deals struck with the new batch, the IEC shuffled its top on-the-ground officials to new regions just weeks before the polling.

The measure isn’t foolproof: They could also be bribed and intimidated in their new postings. But at least many are now working outside their home regions, with little time to get snarled in local politics.

The IEC also improved the security of ballots by bar-coding them and outlawing the sharing of excess ballots at one polling station with a station next door. And the organization announced early which polling centers would be closed due to insecurity – an ambiguity that led to “ghost” stations that never opened but posted results.

“I’m cautiously optimistic. I think they’ve got a system in place that, if it’s executed as it’s designed, will be a reasonably good election. So the question is how close to the way the system is designed is it executed?” says Glenn Cowan, an election monitor with Democracy International.

But major problems have not been rectified.

The country still has no reliable voter registration roll. That weakens efforts to clamp down on multiple voting.

Reports are circulating that fake registration cards are being printed. But there’s already a glut of real cards. The IEC has distributed voter cards to 17.4 million people, but estimates that there are fewer than 12.6 million eligible voters.

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