Live coverage: Afghan election

Follow the events as they unfold in Afghanistan’s vote for a new lower house of parliament amid the threat of violence.

15:20 GMT: That will wrap up our election coverage, as poll workers now shift from collecting vote to counting them.

Turnout is estimated to have been around 40 per cent. It’s important to stress that the counting process will be just that – a process. Preliminary results are not expected for several days or weeks, and with thousands of candidates, there will be many challenges to those numbers. The IEC does not plan to release final results until the end of October.

12:25 GMT: The Taliban says on on its website that the group has conducted more than 100 attacks during the day.

12:17 GMT: Some statistics from an IEC press conference currently under way in Kabul: 5,355 polling centres opened today, with 542 either closed or not reporting any results. 153 of those polling centres closed were closed for security reasons.

Of those 5,355 polling centres, 2,627 reported midday results 1.68 million voters had cast ballots, about 30 per cent of the estimated electorate.

11:50 GMT: Voting officially closed at 4pm (11:30 GMT), but those still queuing will be allowed to cast their votes.

“Only those polling stations where people are still queuing will stay open until everybody in the queue has voted,” said Noor Mohammad Noor, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission.

11:45 GMT: Jed Ober, the chief of staff in Afghanistan of Democracy International, says its observers in 15 provinces had not reported any systematic irregularities.

“We have not witnessed any type of systematic irregularities,” he said. “We have seen a pretty predictable process so far with nothing that we think affects the process. We are pretty optimistic about the process.”

Alessandro Parziale, the organisation’s chief of party, struck a similarly optimistic tone in an interview this afternoon.

11:25 GMT: In Paktia province in the east, security forces have stopped a car and found 1,600 fake voter registration cards, Rohullah Samon, a provincial spokesman, says.

Photo: AFP

11:20 GMT: Several reports during the day have said that the voter turnout among women is significantly lower than among men. Women-only polling stations have been set up, but even there, few women are voting.

In the rural Kabul suburb of Chawni, election staff say they expect only 30 women to vote, compared to 2,000 men.

“Very few women will come. There are two polling centres for them here, there’s no need for it. The men won’t allow the women to vote,” Deljan, a 50-year-old widow, tells AFP.

Parlwasha, a 26-year-old Kabul city resident and an election official, says that whoever wins is unlikely to change the lives of Afghan women.

“It’s better for women since the Taliban, but the government doesn’t do anything for us,” she says.

11:05 GMT: The Electoral Complaints Commission says: “Complaints received at ECC HQ this morning have included
allegations of delayed opening of polling centres, intimidation and threats, ineligible individuals voting, misuse of voter registration cards, proxy voting, poor ink quality, and shortages of ballot papers.”

10:45 GMT: A woman working for the Independent Election Commission in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, has been arrested with 1,500 fake voter registration cards, the New York Times reports. The employee was the daughter of a female candidate, Habiba Sadat.

10:20 GMT: Mukhtar Niazi, voting at a polling station in Kabul, told Al Jazeera that he had seen some people being able to vote twice and that people with voter cards from other provinces had been able to vote in Kabul.

He also said some voters were washing their fingers because they were scared of the Taliban.

“They say ‘we’re travelling to different parts of the country and it’s difficult for us to travel because of this finger. The Taliban and the insurgents will know that we voted, they will cut our heads and kill us’.”

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) and the UN mission in Afghanistan had said the ink would last at least 72 hours and could not be washed off.

Fazal Ahmad Manawi, the head of the IEC, said before the election that the ink used this year is “one of the most high quality inks” and contained 25 per cent silver nitrate, to make sure it would stay on.

“What is used around the world is between 10 to 18 per cent, but we – for precautionary measures – increased it to 25 per cent. If we increase it over 25 per cent it would harm the skin and the ministry of public health would not allow us to do so.”

The IEC is now investigating complaints  voters washing off the ink in Balkh and Khost provinces.

10:05 GMT: Three people have been killed in rocket attacks targeting polling stations in eastern Kunar province, the provincial police chief says.

A mortar bomb attack in northern Takhar province also killed one man, according to a provincial spokesman.

9:55 GMT: A record 406 women are among the 2,514 candidates this year. The constitution rules that 25 per cent of the seats in parliament must be filled by women.

The BBC has met two unusual candidates – a stand-up comedian and a singer who contested in the talent show “Afghan Star”.

9:30 GMT: Al Jazeera’s James Bays in Kabul, says that at the same time of the day in last year’s presidential poll, the voter turnout was about four times higher..

9:05 GMT: A campaigner for Haji Abdul Latif Ahmadzai, a candidate in Logar province, has been caught with 300 fake voter registration cards, security officials has told Reuters. Police said they also detained a man with 500 counterfeit cards in eastern Jalalabad city.

08:55 GMT: The controversy over the ink used to mark out those who have already cast ballots continues, with reports of voters washing their fingers with bleach.

“The black ink doesn’t go, but the blue colour disappears. They should all be using the black ink, to accomplish their task properly,” Mohammed Fawad, keeping watch over the poll for one candidate in Kabul, told Reuters.

But all bleach-users might not have fraud in mind.

In Logar province, the Taliban has threatened to cut off any fingers marked with indelible ink.

In last year’s presidential election, the Taliban sent up checkpoints in Wardak province to check people’s fingers, abducting those who had voted.

Photo: AFP

08:45 GMT: At least 92 per cent of the polling stations across the country have been confirmed open.

“The latest report from the 5,816 polling centres that we planned to open [is that] 92 per cent have opened,” Fazil Ahmad Manawi, head of the Independent Election Commission, said.

“We have no report yet from the other eight percent whether they have opened or not.”

The 92 per cent did not include the 1,019 which election officials had already said would remain shuttered because of insecurity.

08:30 GMT: Haroun Mir, a former political  analyst now running for parliament, tells Al Jazeera that he has witnessed irregularities in Kabul polling stations.

“I’ve been visiting a number of sites. Unfortunately there are many complaints and I wanted to register a number of complaints myself but no one was there in order to register them. Unfortunately, fraud is happening again but I hope it’s not as widespread as in the last election.”

08:20 GMT: Amid scattered attacks in a number of provinces, Amid Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the defence ministry spokesman, tells reporters that there has been no serious security incident linked to the election.

“The armed opposition exaggerated their threats and now we see that the Taliban have failed to disrupt the voting process,” he said.

“The situation has been… even better than we expected.”

However, according to Al Jazeera tallies earlier today, at least 50 people have been killed since yesterday.

The National Directive of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, says its agents had “prevented several attacks in the past 48 hours”.

08:05 GMT: A Taliban attack near a polling station in Baghlan province has killed one Afghan soldier and six pro-government militiamen, according to police.

08:00 GMT: A man carrying 15 fake voters’ cards has been seized by police in Kabul, German news agency DPA quotes Ahmad Zia Rafhat, spokesman for the UN-backed Election Complaint Commission, as saying.

Rafhat also said his office has received reports of underage voting.

Ballot-stuffing in favour of certain candidates was reported in Kunduz, but officials could not confirm them.

07:45 GMT: Sanam Anderlini of the International Civil Society Action Network, a group advocating women’s activism in conflict zones, says women candidates are facing particular challenges.

“Women more then men are being targeted by the Taliban but also by local governments which don’t necessarily don’t want the women to run,” she tells Al Jazeera.

“At the same time, we’re hearing stories about how different elites or different parties who have interest in the political process are fronting women to make additional gains.”

The same issue is discussed in a Christian Science Monitor report, where women’s rights campaigners say many of the female candidates are “merely puppets for shadowy figures trying to garner influence in the new Afghan parliament,” to represent the interests of warlords and power brokers.

07:25 GMT: Three people have been killed and two injured at a polling station in Kunar province, sources tell Al Jazeera.

07:05 GMT: Nato and Afghan forces have forced Taliban fighters to flee voting centres they blocked since morning in Nangarhar’s Surkh Rud district, residents say.

06:35 GMT: The governor of Kandahar province says he has survived a bomb attack while visiting polling centres in the region.

“I was on my way to Dand district and along the way there was a roadside bomb explosion against our vehicles,” Toryalai Wesa tells AFP.

“The blast caused no casualties but it shattered my vehicle’s windows.”

06:25 GMT: Amid the concerns of election fraud, a New York Times report is discussing how much it costs to buy an Afghan vote. In Kandahar, voters sell their ballots for as little as $1, while in Kunduz, the price is $15, the paper says. Apparently, vote buying is a appealing to many candidates who eye a monthly parliament salary of about $2,200 – and “tremendous opportunities for graft”.

06:00 GMT: Police says a rocket in Nangarhar has killed two people.

“Two rockets fired from some unknown location hit a house in Nazyan district, and killed two people and wounded a third,” Abdul Ghafor, the Nangarhar provincial police spokesman, says.

05:25 GMT: About 63,000 Afghan soldiers and 52,000 police have been deployed to protect the poll. Nato has said its entire contingent would be on standby.

Photo: AFP

05:10 GMT: Al Jazeera’s James Bays, at a polling station in Kabul, says there is some controversy over the “indelible” ink used to mark the  fingers of those who cast their votes.

“A man turned up an hour and a half after polling started with a bottle of bleach. He started washing people’s fingers and they were able to present relatively clean fingers.

Steffan De Mistura, the head of the UN in Afghanistan, came to this polling station and saw what was going on. He put his finger in the bleach and the ink stayed mainly on his finger but was certainly a little bit lighter after he took his finger out. But some here are saying he should have kept his finger in the bleach for a couple of minutes, that’s how they got their ink off. He was only prepared to put his finger in there for less than 30 seconds, saying his finger was burning.”

05:00 GMT: Steffan de Mistura, the top United Nations envoy in Afghanistan, tells Al Jazeera that he’s not concerned about the circulation of fake voter cards in a number of provinces. He has been visiting some polling stations in Kabul this morning..

“I looked at the ink, the polling paper, and the way the staff was working,” he says.

“It looked quite professional, but of course, the name of the game is the provinces and the districts. That’s where we have to see how effective the whole process is. We believe it’s improved, but the test will be later on.”

04:30 GMT: As he voted in a at a secondary school near his presidential palace in central Kabul, President Karzai said that by voting, the Afghan people would take their country “forward to a better future”.

“We do hope there will be a high voter turnout, that people will come out and vote for the person, man or woman, of their choice without pressure,” he said.

04:20 GMT: Al Jazeera’s James Bays says a bomb attack in Khost city has injured two people. In Baghlan province, a rocket has killed one person.

Officials in the Taliban stronghold Kandahar say voters there are going to the polls. But before voting began, the city was hit by a remote-control bomb and a rocket, but neither caused any injuries.

04:00 GMT: Al Jazeera’s James Bays says voter turnout is relatively slow so far, with more election observers and media than actual voters at the Kabul polling station he is at.
More than 50 people, including civilians, security forces and Taliban fighters, have been killed in the last 24 hours, according to Al Jazeera tallies. 
03:50 GMT: Hamid Karzai, the president, casts his vote. 
03:45 GMT: AFP reports that Faizal Ahmad Manawi, the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), cast the first ballot when polls opened in Kabul.
Abdul Rahman, a police spokesman, says the Taliban had attacked five polling stations in Badakhshan, Herat and Ghazni provinces before they opened. There were no casualties. 
03:25 GMT: A resident told The Associated Press that the Taliban blocked two voting centres from opening in Nangarhar’s Surkh Rud district. He said Taliban fighters were patrolling the area to prevent residents from going elsewhere to vote. 
02:45 GMT: AFP news agency reports a Nato official as saying that the rocket attack before polls opened was target at the headquarters of the the military alliance’s mission International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Kabul.

“It was a rocket of unknown calibre, it landed in the vicinity of Isaf HQ,” Lieutenant Commander Katie Kendrick, a Nato spokeswoman, said. “No damage or casualties were reported.”

Ahmedzia Abdulzai, the Nangarhar province spokesman, tells The Associated Press news agency that a number of rockets fired in the city of Jalalabad were targeted at a military base.

02:30 GMT: Polling stations open for voting in Afghanistan’s parliamentary election. But Al Jazeera has learned they will not open on time in the eastern province of Nuristan due to security concerns.

23:23 GMT: Explosion heard in the capital, Kabul, hours before voting begins. Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from outside a polling station in Kabul, said there were no immediate reports of any injuries from the explosion.

There was a rocket that hit the capital city, that landed near the main building of state TV, right opposite the main headquarters of the Nato force here in Kabul,” he said.
“We understand there have been a number of violent incidents overnight across Afghanistan. We’re trying to compile the statistics it’s still a little early to get some indication of the death toll.

But the Taliban [have said] they will do everything they can to stop this poll.”

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