Afghans kick off historic election
Afghans go to the polls Saturday to pick a new leader, as President Hamid Karzai prepares to step down. With ongoing violence likely to deter many would-be voters and massive fraud a major threat, the election underlines—13 years after the U.S. toppled the Taliban—just how far the country remains from being a stable and well-functioning democracy.
Still, by all indications Afghans are eager to participate in the $100-million, western-funded contest, in which 11 candidates, representing a wide range of positions and interests, are competing. Three in four respondents to a recent survey said they want to cast a ballot. Campaign posters dot the walls of buildings in cities and villages across the country, witnesses report, rallies are well attended, and the news media features heavy campaign coverage. The election might not meet western standards for democracy. But in a country where large areas remain under Taliban control, and the threat of full-scale civil war always looms, a peaceful transition of power that’s broadly accepted by Afghans would mark an important milestone.
Photographer Victor Blue captured some of the candidates as well as ordinary Afghans in the run-up to the election, and spoke to them about their hopes for a more peaceful and prosperous future.