Thousands of political posters on the streets of Kabul

17 Jun 2009

Thousands of political posters on the streets of Kabul

KABUL - Large billboards, posters and all kinds of publicity materials are starting to decorate the famous corners of the streets of Kabul as the elections race gets underway.

The official campaign period for Afghanistan’s presidential and provincial council elections has just started and lasts until two days before the 20 August elections.

As candidates seek to introduce themselves and their platforms to the voters there’s a chance for money to be earned.

“Since the beginning of the campaign we got around 35 per cent of the contract for two main presidential candidates. Orders arrived only two days ago and now we are working 24 hours a day to fulfil the job. No machine is off. This has a very good business opportunity for us,” said Ahmad Morid Walizada from the Saifi Shaheen printing press, one of the larger printers in Kabul.

Campaign cars are already driving around the city decorated with stickers and from printing presses, photographers and shops election fever is starting to grip.

Television and radio advertising spots are already being aired and some of the more well known candidates have opened one or several headquarters around the city.

On the first day of the campaign posters from six prominent presidential candidates started to take up key spots around Kabul’s main squares.

Incumbent President Hamid Karzai has chosen medium size posters with different slogans such as “Afghanistan - the home for all Afghans” or “Today’s choice – tomorrow’s guarantee”.

Just down the street in the area of Wazir Akbar Khan a huge billboard for former foreign minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah, one of the key challengers to President Karzai, features the slogan “Accountable State – Responsible Servants”.

Nearby dozens of small posters for former finance minister, Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai line the main roundabout proclaiming “National Honour – International Figure”.

One of the only two women presidential candidates, Shahla Atta, has chosen medium sized posters featuring herself with her head fully covered by a scarf with the colours of the Afghan flag.

Also appearing on her posters is a photo of the late former president Mohammad Daoud Khan, who was killed in 1978 and was recently found in a mass grave and buried at a state funeral with full honours early this year.

Her three slogans are: “Decision making is the first condition to win”, “Women are half of society’s body; we want our rights – Shariat rights” and “Rights of minorities and elimination of discrimination in the country”.

Close by a cigarette seller has her poster stuck to his cart.

“Regarding electoral posters and banners, this is perfectly legal under the law with the provision that no candidate has the right to use any governmental wall or building or car to hang their posters because those facilities belong to the people and state of Afghanistan,” said one of the media commissioners of the Independent Election Commission Siddiqullah Tawhidi, who is in Herat where he is monitoring the media in the region.

While Wahab Sadat the deputy mayor of Kabul who is in charge of regulating where posters are placed said he was concerned that posters were not being placed in officially designated areas: “By putting posters everywhere the city will become ugly and the removal of these posters will be difficult. It is still time and they should come to get authorizations.”

This year the elections are being run by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission with the help of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the UN’s elections support project UNDP/ELECT.

“I look forward to an election campaign where each candidate presents a vision for Afghanistan’s future. More than ever, the Afghan people need a debate focused on the key political challenges facing the country and how to take Afghanistan forward. The Afghan people should be able to choose between political alternatives and not only between different individuals. They must be able to see clearly what the candidates stand for and not only who they are. I therefore hope we will now see two months of vigorous and dignified political debate,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide.

Forty-one presidential hopefuls and are more than 3,000 candidates for 420 seats on 34 provincial councils are competing for the 20 August elections.

By Nilab Mobarez, UNAMA