A WOMAN ENTERS A POLLING STATION IN KABUL, Afghanistan, on 5 April 2014, to vote in provincial and presidential elections. According to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, of the country’s sixteen million eligible voters in 2014, 35 percent were women. Additionally, 308 female politicians openly campaigned for seats on provincial councils, and three women were, as of last month, vying for the position of vice president. This is a stark contrast to the situation in Afghanistan until 2001, when, under the Taliban, women were forbidden from participating in public life.
With the country’s political stability following the planned withdrawal of US and NATO forces at the end of the year under question, these elections, which mark Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power, have proved encouraging, though hardly free from violence. While polling was largely peaceful in Kabul and other urban areas, rural polling centres faced about three hundred violent insurgent attacks, according to various news reports. The threat of violence kept many people away from polling booths; the election commission estimated that only about 58 percent of the total electorate ventured out to vote.