Warlord foe among 1st Afghan winners


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, who received 7,813 votes, placed second among 47 people vying for the five parliamentary seats in western Farah province.

Even though about a quarter of parliamentary seats are reserved for women, Joya won her seat outright. Only 36 percent of Farah voters are women, indicating that Joya also drew support from men.

In other unofficial results, almost all of the former militia leaders on the ballot were poised to win parliamentary seats. In Kabul province, three of the four top vote-getters were men who had fought in the country's wars.

"It's not good news for Afghans," said Shukria Barakzai, a women right's activist from Kabul province who is also expected 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 believes that Afghans 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, appeared to fare poorly in the election. Only Abdul Salam Rocketi, a former Taliban commander named for his skill with a rocket, was expected to win a seat.

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.

Although there was little violence before the election, this period before the results are official is regarded as sensitive. One leading candidate in the north has been gunned down.

Kim Barker writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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