Afghan Candidate Seeks Votes Via Bicycle Elections in Afghanistan are scheduled for this Sunday, with more than 5,000 candidates competing for legislative seats. Ivan Watson talks with one candidate in Kabul who is using his lack of funding to his advantage -- and doing most of his campaigning by bicycle.

Afghan Candidate Seeks Votes Via Bicycle

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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, film director Andrew Niccol on trying to explain to the studios that he wants to make a movie on guns and greed. They said `no,' but he arranged independent financing and "Lord of War" opens today anyway.

First, on Sunday, there are parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. Some 5,800 candidates are campaigning for seats in the new national legislature and on 34 provincial councils. As with elections anywhere, some candidates have far more resources than others for their campaigns. In Kabul, NPR's Ivan Watson took a look at one candidate who's turned his lack of money into an asset.

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

IVAN WATSON reporting:

On a busy Kabul street, Osman Akran(ph) watches as a car, or machina in the local Dari, drives past, blaring the campaign slogans of a parliamentary candidate from loudspeakers.


Mr. OSMAN AKRAN (Parliamentary Candidate): (Foreign language spoken)

(Soundbite of laughter)

WATSON: With a chuckle Akran then hops on to his vehicle, a rusty bicycle, and sets off down a bumpy dirt road to do some of his own campaigning.

(Soundbite of bell)

WATSON: Akran makes a meager living as the editor of a satirical newspaper that routinely ridicules the corruption and inefficiency he sees in the Afghan government and its international backers. Not content to just criticize from the sidelines, however, Akran recently borrowed $2,000, a fortune for most Afghans, and decided to run for parliament. He can't afford a car, so he carries a cardboard box on his bike, loaded with posters, a paintbrush and an open can of glue. When Akran stops to put up posters in a poor Kabul neighborhood, he quickly draws an amused and curious crowd.

(Soundbite of voices; laughter)

WATSON: The would-be politician doesn't have to say much. For a local named Nagibolla(ph), the bicycle says it all.

NAGIBOLLA (Resident): (Through Translator) He's an honest man. If he was a blood drinker, he would have had two cruising cars by now, and we experienced those people who have got cruising cars, and once they get power or once they go to parliament, they will make themselves a king on us and we will not vote for them.

WATSON: Akran then leads a visitor through the surrounding labyrinth of mud huts, which are crisscrossed with open sewers.

Mr. AKRAN: (Through Translator) This is the capital. This is a few kilometers from the center of the city, and you see how--what life of people is here. You know, a lot of money came here, a lot of donations by the international community, but nobody knows where it went and how it was spent. You see the life of people and you see the--no irrigation system, no water.

(Soundbite of door opening)

WATSON: A man from the neighborhood invites Akran in for a cup of tea.

(Soundbite of people speaking foreign language)

WATSON: One by one, men join him on the floor of a simple room to participate in a lively discussion about the upcoming election.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

(Soundbite of laughter)

WATSON: The host, a man named Karima Raffar Aydoon(ph), said Akran got points for being neither a warlord, nor what he called a Western Afghan, his description of those who have returned to government positions after sitting out the decades of war living in the West.

Mr. KARIMA RAFFAR AYDOON: (Through Translator) We need somebody who is hungry, like us, and who stands from a house like our house and who goes to government, and then he will be able to help us.

(Soundbite of people speaking foreign language; bell)

WATSON: By the time Akran set out for the long bike ride home, the sun had already set. He says he's thinking of renting a taxi and rigging it with loudspeakers for the final days before the election. Ivan Watson, NPR News.

CHADWICK: This program note: The NPR foreign desk has correspondent Phil Reeves in Afghanistan, covering these elections. We'll have full results Sunday and Monday and early next week coming from NPR News.

I'm Alex Chadwick. More to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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