Afghan women's-rights activist wins seat

The Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The News Tribune, October 07, 2005
By Kim Barker

KABUL, Afghanistan One of the first winners announced in Afghanistan's historic parliamentary elections is a women's-rights activist who gained fame by calling militia leaders "criminals" at a constitutional conference, according to unofficial results released yesterday.

Malalai Joya, 27, won 7,813 votes and placed second out of 47 people competing for five parliamentary seats in western Farah province.

Her success was one side of likely election results in Afghanistan. Even though about one-quarter of parliamentary seats are reserved for women, Joya won a seat outright. Only 36 percent of the voters in Farah province are women, indicating that Joya won support from men.

On the other side of likely results, almost all former militia leaders also appeared likely to win seats in the parliament. In Kabul province, three of the four top spots were held by men who had fought in the country's wars.

"It's not good news for Afghans," said Shukria Barakzai, a women's-rights activist and candidate from Kabul province who also is likely to win a seat in parliament. "Fundamentalists plus warlords plus drug lords plus former leaders."

But Mohammad Mohaqiq, a former warlord who has since created a powerful political organization, said he thinks all people should forget the country's past wars and concentrate on reconstruction. Mohaqiq was leading in the parliamentary results for Kabul province, ahead of his nearest rival by more than 17,000 votes.

"I don't have any problem sitting next to anyone in the parliament," even former enemies, Mohaqiq said.

Former members of the Taliban regime, driven out by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001, seemed to fare poorly in the election. Only Abdul Salaam Rocketi, a former Taliban commander named for his skill with a grenade launcher, appeared poised to win a seat in southern Zabul province.

Joya was one of the first seven unofficial winners announced yesterday from the remote western provinces of Farah and Nimroz. The Joint Electoral Management Body plans to announce results in dribs and drabs, staggered over several weeks, to reduce the chance of violence at any sudden announcements from the Sept. 18 election.

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