Afghans vote in presidential poll

Millions defy Taliban threats to choose successor to Karzai, in nation's first democratic transfer of power.


    Kabul, Afghanistan - It was not without its glitches, but an election which will result in the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan went off without major incident.

    There were minor attacks during Saturday's presidential poll, leading to nearly 900 voting stations being closed due to fighting or lack of security forces.

    The capital was quiet and security was heavy, with thousands of police and soldiers manning checkpoints.

    There were a steady stream of small attacks, foiled attacks, ballot shortages and reports of ballot-stuffing and voter irregularity throughout the day.


    At a polling station in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood in Kabul, the queue to vote moved steadily in the rain.

    "I'm 100 percent sure that there will be fraud," said Takhor Shaml, a 21-year-old medical student. "But I'm still here to vote for the next president and provincial candidates."

    A tense scene unfolded at the day's end when observers for presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah's campaign refused to let a box of ballots be taken away for counting.

    Mujib Rahman, one of the observers, wondered "why a box had shown up half full from the ministry of women’s affairs, why votes from this station are cast into it, why enough ballots and enough boxes aren't provided and why the box must be taken away to be counted."

    'We now know what we’re doing'

    Shrugging off fears of fraud, many cheerfully lined up to vote.

    Abdulbagheh Seddiqi, 62, an information manager at a television station, said he was not too concerned about voter fraud.

    "I don’t plan to cheat, so I count on others not to cheat," he said. "The first election [2004] was new to us, we learned more by the second one [2009] and now we know what we're doing."

    The results will start to be declared as soon as 28 of the 34 provinces have counted five percent of their votes - a process that will take several days.

    The first election was new to us, we learned more by the second one and now we know what we’re doing.

    Abdulbagheh Seddiqi, 62-year-old voter in Kabul

    Glenn Cowan, CEO of Democracy International, an observer group with 16 observers at polling stations, said there had been a "spectacular turnout". He vote counting to be undertaken "in an organised manner".

    The counting process will also be observed by local and international groups.

    Security concerns will continue over the next following days as ballots are transported and counted, but an unnamed security official told Al Jazeera that the number of recorded attacks on election day has been lower than an average days in the country.

    Voter turnout

    Participation was the crucial question of the day. Afghan media reported that 70 percent of eligible voters were expected to turn out.

    Political analyst Haroun Mir said that prediction was too high, and it was unknown how many people were eligible or registered to vote, with the number for the latter swinging somewhere between 12 million and 16 million.

    Afghanistan's population is estimated at between 28 million and 32 million, and there has been no recent census. It is also unknown how many voter registration cards had actually been issued.

    Who voted?

    Eligible and the non-eligible voters alike lined up in the queues outside poll stations, all with voter ID cards.

    Although not legally able to vote Nazanin, 16, a school student, said she feared "fraud by government officials".

    Adibeh Khorami, an election observer at a polling centre for women, said she had seen a 14-year-old girl come in with a voter ID, attempting to cast a ballot.

    "She was wearing a chadori [a burqa]," said Khorami, who had recorded 343 votes cast at the station by 2pm.

    "That’s how they try to get it. We took her card away, put her name on a list barring her from voting elsewhere and sent her away."

    Additional reporting by Jawad Jalali

    Follow @dparvaz on Twitter

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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