At least five people have been killed in election day violence in Afghanistan. Scores more were wounded in dozens of attacks Saturday. The violence helped keep turnout low in this long-overdue presidential vote, and there have also been accusations of fraud and misconduct.
CGTN’s Jack Barton reports.
Afghans voted for a new president on Saturday amid a spate of small-scale attacks targeting polling stations across the country, the largest in Kandahar. Officials deployed 70,000 security forces across the country, reportedly preventing at least five further attacks as people cast their ballots.
About 4500 polling stations were open across Afghanistan, but almost 450 others remained closed because of security fears.
Presidential candidate Mohammad Ibrahim Alokozay dropped out of the race days before the vote, but called on citizens to brave the attacks.
“If people want a democratic Afghanistan, an Islamic Afghanistan, an Afghanistan republic, then they shouldn’t sit at home, but join the turnout and vote,” Alokozay urged voters.
Despite the call, initial reports indicate turnout was low. Those who did cast a ballot were clearly determined to make a difference.
“In the name of Allah, my reason for coming to vote is that not voting is not the solution for Afghanistan,” said Mohammed Rahman Nazari, at a Kabul polling station. “Even though there are lot of threats and a lot of cheating, not voting is not the solution.”
The election came after the breakdown in peace talks between Washington and the Taliban earlier this month. Some Afghans wanted the elections delayed until a peace deal with the Taliban is in place. Others saw it differently.
“If we don’t have an election, if we don’t have a legitimate government, who are we going to make a peace deal with?” wondered voter Khalid Naziri.
Biometric devices were used for the first time to try prevent the allegations of widespread fraud that marred recent parliamentary elections. Almost 140,000 local and international observers were on hand.
Fourteen candidates remained in the race as the ballots were cast but the top voter-getters are likely to be incumbent President Ashraf Ghani and his former deputy Abdullah Abdullah.
If a clear winner can emerge, he is expected to play a central role in trying to end the conflict by helping restart peace talks with the Taliban.