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November 27 , 2008

Ballots, Bullets & Kabulshit

An Afghan Election


Ahead of the 2009 presidential elections in Afghanistan, Australian electoral advisor and Gruen Planet panellist Toby Ralph joined a UN team to assist local authorities unused to free and fair democratic processes and in some cases, not keen on adopting them. Amid the 'War on Terror', resistance ranged from corruption and bureaucratic ineptitude to lethal violence. Ralph's diarised account is a rare glimpse into the day-to-day experiences of those charged with delivering the freedom and democracy Western leaders promise the disenfranchised. With the wry humour of a seasoned politico (or someone trying to distract themselves from the very real dangers of their situation), he provides snapshots of life in Kabul, a primer in the political shambles of a failing state, and the reflections of a non-combatant working in a war zone in a suit and tie. He is whisked between meetings in armoured cars, tries to avoid sitting on the AK-47 down the back of the couch at his lodgings, dines with colleagues in sandbagged candlelit restaurants, and attempts to convince the Electoral Commission chairman and friend of President Hamid Karzai that having an election is a good idea. That the poll ended in farce, with Karzai's reinstatement by default, means the UN will be sending another group of advisors when next an election is reluctantly called.
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