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Afghans Overcome Taliban Threats to Vote in Parliamentary Elections

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Sean Maroney

Afghans cast their ballots for a new parliament Saturday, despite rocket and bomb attacks during elections seen as a key test of the government's fight against the Taliban and corruption.  As the polls officially closed, the Interior Ministry said violence during the vote killed at least 11 civilians and three policeman and wounded dozens of others.  

Afghans across much of the country voted Saturday in the face of Taliban threats and scattered acts of violence that marred - but did not seriously disrupt - the parliamentary election.

However, election observers say turnout appeared to be low.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak spoke to reporters late Saturday. "Why the participation was low, nobody can be sure definitely, but it might be as the result of the enemy's negative campaign to terrorize the people," he said.

Afghan election officials said poor security prevented some polling stations from opening in parts of the country.  Insurgents also killed at least one candidate and 18 campaign workers in the run-up to the vote.

Despite rocket and bomb attacks in areas across the country, some Afghan voters said they were more focused on the future rather than the violence of the present.

Imam Khan is an Afghan nomad who cast his vote in Kabul.  He says he and his fellow nomads voted in order to make their own future and let the government hear their voices. He says they want to have a representative in the parliament to fight for their rights.

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The Afghan Defense Ministry says nearly 300,000 Afghan police and soldiers, backed by 150,000 international troops, provided security during the election.  

Andy Campbell is the country director for the National Democratic Institute, which helped monitor the vote.  He says running elections in any country, even in peace time, is a very daunting task. "Running elections is the largest logistical exercise that a country would usually undertake, along with the census, but here in Afghanistan, we also have the added issue of an active insurgency in a number of parts of the country, both in the north and in the south," he said.

Nearly 2,500 candidates competed for 249 seats in Afghanistan's lower house of parliament.

Preliminary results are not expected before October 8.  Officials likely will announce final results at the end of next month, following the resolution of any complaints of fraud or misconduct.

The Election Complaints Commission says it already has received reports of alleged irregularities, including the delayed opening of polling centers, misuse of voter registration cards, ineligible people voting, a shortage of ballots and ineffective indelible ink used to prevent multiple voting.

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