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April 06, 2014

Afghan Vote Deemed Success, Results Uncertain

by Sharon Behn

kabul  Afghanistan's presidential vote is being hailed as a success, with seven million voters braving Taliban threats to go to the polls.  But Afghans say the true success of the election lies with the candidates accepting the results.

 For one rare weekend Afghans like Ismail Qoreshi were happy.  Standing outside Gold’s Gym in central Kabul, Qoreshi says the weekend presidential elections were a huge success.

He says, "this is a happy moment for Afghans, we have voted for a new leader." ... "95 percent of the people are happy that things were quiet and they cast their votes. It is good for our people."

About seven million voters braved Taliban death threats to cast their ballots for a new president Saturday. 
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U.S. President Barack Obama commended the Afghan people on Saturday’s voter turnout for an election he described as “critical” to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future as well as continued international support.

The vote, says Andrew Wilder of the United States Institute of Peace, was a decisive message to the militants.

"If seven million Afghans turned out to vote, despite all these threats, I think there is only to interpret that as a real significant defeat for the Taliban," he said.

But while the voting is over, the election process is not. Allegations of fraud have begun to come in and the Taliban on Sunday attacked a convoy carrying boxes full of ballots to be counted. The election workers were killed, and the boxes destroyed.

Wilder, who was in Afghanistan for the vote, says officials need to thoroughly investigate all claims of fraud or the election will risk losing credibility in the eyes of the people.

"There are areas where there probably was fraud," he said. "But given the turnout figures, I would be surprised if the fraud were at such a decisive level that it would have a major impact on the outcome."

If successful, Saturday's election will be Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power from one elected leader to another.

On the streets of Kabul, Abdul Habib says it is time his voice, and that of all Afghans, is heard.

He says, "the candidates have to respect the vote of the people ... the people voted despite the very hard conditions, they came out and cast their ballots, and the candidates should respect the verdict of the people."

The worry for now is that if the candidates start to squabble over who won, their fight could spill onto the streets, erasing Saturday's voting success.