Archive for May, 2014


Today the Independent Electoral Commission announced the final figures for the presidential election. This is after they have taken into account all of the complaints made by the different candidates. As predicted, the front-runner, Abdullah Abdullah, has not reached 50 per cent plus one. So there will be a run off between him and his nearest rival, Ashraf Ghani, on June 14th.

If you want to know more about both candidates read this interview with Abdullah Abdullah by former BBC journalist Kate Clark, who now runs the Afghanistan Analysts Network – http://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/2014-elections-18-the-abdullah-interview . Or look at this profile of Ashraf Ghani from the BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27142426 .

But talking to my friends here, may of whom know the candidates from their childhood or university days, gives a different perspective. One friend told me he had little time for any of the candidates, but went out to vote as a protest against Taliban intimidation and to show his support for democracy. Another former colleague said corruption was still an issue – but war lord candidates were no longer stuffing ballot boxes with false votes in their favour, but now bribing whole villages to support them – a much harder thing to prove.

So now it starts all over again, with the two candidates fighting face to face.

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So I’m back in Kabul – in 2014 – the year the wheels are supposed to come off Afghanistan.

So how is it?

Well, there is still no new President, there have been rocket attacks in the city, and legislation outlawing violence against women is even further away (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/04/afghanistan-law-victims-violence-women ). But the sky is blue, the sun is up and the city is as lively as ever.

This time I am staying in a hotel, which is pretty much like the last Kabul hotel I stayed in – lovely garden but dodgy plumbing and electrics. But even here there are changes – the food is amazing; the staff speak English; I haven’t seen any mice or cockroaches and every room has, albeit slightly unreliable, wi-fi.

In  fact, it seems that after living a decade with westerners in their city, many of them British and America, Afghans have really embraced the English language. I have been taking taxis from the firm that is security approved, and their drivers all speak English. This means they can argue more effectively with you as to why your taxi fare is $15 – an outrageous amount of money here – but it also means you can explain where you want to go without having to ring someone else who can speak Dari and pass the phone over. (In fact, they’re better at knowing where they’re going than the taxi drivers in Belfast!)

But it’s not just firms that cater almost exclusively for westerners. As I have scoured the shops for scarfs, jewellry and nockle (the delicious Afghan snack of sugar covered almonds)  I have discussed the prices with Jamil, my faithful shopping partner, and the shop keeper has butted in, in English. However, I still need to learn Dari!

But one thing is definitely the same- the crazy driving!

 

 

 

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