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  • Published: 16 July 2012
  • ISBN: 9781742537108
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook

Ballots, Bullets & Kabulshit: An Afghan Election: Penguin Special




When Toby Ralph joined a UN team assisting preparations for Afghanistan's 2009 presidential election, he didn't quite know what he was getting into. In a country unaccustomed to fair and free processes, the resistance he encountered to the idea democracy ranged from corruption and ineptitude to violence.

Ahead of the 2009 presidential elections in Afghanistan, Australian electoral adviser and Gruen Planet panellist Toby Ralph joined a UN team to assist local authorities unused to free and fair democratic processes – and in some cases, not keen on adopting them. Amid the 'War on Terror', resistance ranged from corruption and bureaucratic ineptitude to lethal violence.

Ralph's diarised account is a rare glimpse into the day-to-day experiences of those charged with delivering the freedom and democracy Western leaders promise the disenfranchised. With the wry humour of a seasoned politico (or someone trying to distract themselves from the very real dangers of their situation), he provides snapshots of life in Kabul, a primer in the political shambles of a failing state, and the reflections of a non-combatant working in a war zone in a suit and tie. He is whisked between meetings in armoured cars, tries to avoid sitting on the AK-47 down the back of the couch at his lodgings, dines with colleagues in sandbagged candlelit restaurants, and attempts to convince the Electoral Commission chairman – and friend of President Hamid Karzai – that having an election is a good idea.

That the poll ended in farce, with Karzai's reinstatement by default, means the UN will be sending another group of advisers when next an election is reluctantly called.

'Forthright and darkly humorous ... [Ralph] provides a bleakly intriguing, occasionally absurdist take on the latest in a long line of fraught attempts by outsiders to influence this war-torn country.' Canberra Times

'Written in a flowing, irreverent style that takes no prisoners.' Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin

  • Published: 16 July 2012
  • ISBN: 9781742537108
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook

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About the author

Toby Ralph

Toby Ralph, described as one of the 'most powerful spinners and advisers in Australia',has worked on over forty elections across three continents, including all of Australia's federal elections since John Howard became prime minister. He calls himself a marketing bloke and sometime propagandist. The Sydney Morning Herald said: 'Look behind big political and corporate events  – such as the four pillars banking debate in the late 1990s, the republican debate, corporate reviews, conflicts, takeovers, mergers and restructures in the media, construction, transport, superannuation, mining, export, gaming, and finance industries, environmental debates, many big listed company issues, and under-budget major infrastructure projects — and find his handiwork.'

Toby is a regular guest on Gruen Planet and Radio National, and has appeared on Insight and Q&A. He topped ThePower Index's 'Five (relatively) unknown people running Australia', and was included inthe inaugural BRW Power List as one of the fifty most influential people in Australian business.

Praise for Ballots, Bullets & Kabulshit: An Afghan Election: Penguin Special

Ralph has a wonderful turn of phrase, a wry eye, a lightness of touch, and a wicked sense of the absurd.

On Line Opinion

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