Vote radio! Vote bucket! Take your pick in Afghan polls

This combo of photographs taken on March 30, 2014, shows a list of Afghan presidential candidates on a copy of the Afghan presidential ballot paper in Kabul

Parachute or laptop computer? Sunrise or binoculars? Five days before polling, Afghan voters are spoilt for choice as they prepare to make their selection from an oddball array of candidates’ symbols.

The designs help illiterate voters differentiate between hundreds of contenders standing in presidential and provincial council elections on April 5, a decade after the first polls of the country’s post-Taliban era.

Ballot papers have options ranging from the humble kettle and the sacred prayer mat to an office chair, a fearsome lion, an elegant butterfly and an unexpected basketball net.

Other eye-catching designs include paint brushes, naan bread, a calculator, a ladder, parrots, a pencil sharpener and, in land-locked Afghanistan, a sailboat in full rig.

The symbols are decided through a mixture of candidate preferences and allocation by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), which is organising the vote.

Eight candidates in the race to succeed President Hamid Karzai have launched nationwide poster campaigns that prominently feature their personal symbol.

“We chose the radio because each Afghan family has at least one radio in their home, and it is the key source of information in the villages,” Javed Faisal, spokesperson for leading presidential hopeful Zalmai Rassoul, told AFP.

“Our symbol shows that we believe people should know about the candidates, their manifestos and their policies. It also means we believe in democracy, freedom of speech and the media.”

Before the campaign began in early February, all the presidential teams gathered at the IEC to select their symbols, with Rassoul given the choice between an umbrella and a radio, according to his officials…