Election campaign is in full bloom. Candidates are trying to attract voters through every channel they can. Whether in corner meetings, public gatherings, television programs, newspaper aids or online technology, voters are being offered with variety of slogans, programs, and foreign policy guidelines. Some of the candidates have launched their own websites. Internet is being used for campaign purposes overwhelmingly for the first time—a change that didn’t happen in previous Presidential elections of 2004. Youths are the most active. Bloggers are publishing supportive-arguments for candidates of their choice. Facebook and Youtube are most used for online-campaigning. Some candidates have uploaded appealing videos and messages. Some are emphasizing on corruption, others are promising of full security, while many talk about social justice and accountability. Some candidates are appealing for financial support of their campaigns.
Seemingly impressed with the US-style, live television debates are common nowadays. Some prominent channels are on-airing special coverage on elections. Candidates are being invited for debate and questions. Sometimes the discussion gets so hot that the anchor person has to interfere to avoid a hand-to-hand quarrel. In a similar story the other night in a television show, two candidates–Ramazan Bashardost and Bashir Bezhan–went almost about punching each other. The accusation got so hot that after the cameras were closed down, two of the candidates that had just finished a tough oral-fight tried to plunge into collars of each other. It was more amusing prior to fight, when a candidate was confused by a question on his choice about presidential or parliamentary system of governments. Puzzlingly, he answered “I will implement Islamic system.” When asked by the anchor, “what in the Islamic system, Presidential or Parliamentarian?” The candidate said it will be seen at that time (when elected). The atmosphere got embarrassing when his answer was followed by a “collective-laughter” from the audience.
A day before the live-tv show quarrel, another story made us laugh out loud. In a live press conference, Chairman of the Senate Sibghatullah Mujadadi said last night he has dreamt a “divine hint” to support President Karzai, thus he went for Istikhara (a religious practice before doing something, to know if it will result positive or negative). Mr. Mujadadi to support his “divine dream” recited a Hadis (Jurisprudence) from Prophet Muhammad about the importance of Istikhara. When faced a mocking question from a journalist, Mujadadi said, “its clear that I did Istikhara and got the hint from Allah Almighty to support and vote for this person (talking about Karzai). Since then, newspapers and people are making damn fun of the “divine hint.”
In relatively an old story, a couple of weeks ago a local “political party” by the name of social justice and equality, had asked many laborers to join party’s protest rally. Organizer of the protest had promised of 200 Afghanis each laborer for a two-hour of chanting slogans and holding banners written “let the people of Afghanistan decide their fate themselves.” When the protest was over, the organizer had attempted to escape the scene. But laborers took the guy and started beating him before the police arrived and arrested him. Laborers now started the real protest against the organizer of the previous “protest” and were later paid.
As the official day for election campaigns reached, all the streets of Kabul were “decorated” and “polluted” with election posters and giant portraits of candidates. People were surprised with many new faces, whose names were never heard before. It was even more confusing when the next day almost all the posters on the main junctions and roads of the city were torn. Surprising is that all it happened in an overnight active “operation” by “unknown people”. Seeing the cold behavior of the “unknown people”, a new fashion is common. Private vehicles are being decorated with portraits and posters of the candidates. Obviously, supporters thought, it was the only way out to avoid the campaign money go waste—torn posters.
There are so many candidates running for the office of President that voters will face difficulty in finding the election-symbol of their favorite candidates on the ballot paper on polling day. Over 40 candidates are running, majority of whom, are seen for the first time.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Religious Affairs (Hajj and Auqaaf) has banned election campaign meetings in mosques. Head of the Ministry Mr. Sadiq Chakari has said “mosques are places for prayers and recitation, not political competition. I have asked all the Mullahs of mosques not to allow any candidate campaign in the mosques.” But President Karzai is boldy having his campaign addresses in mosques of insecure provinces.