News / Asia

Relief Follows Afghanistan's Mostly Peaceful Landmark Vote

Afghan man casts vote at local polling station, Kabul, April 5, 2014.
Afghan man casts vote at local polling station, Kabul, April 5, 2014.
Sharon Behn
Relief followed Afghanistan's historic presidential election Saturday, which was marked by high voter turnout and attacks by Taliban militants that were fewer than feared.

Election officials are calling the landmark poll, which marks the beginning of country's first democratic transfer of power, a success.

Following a recent spate of attacks by Taliban militants who have long vowed to disrupt Saturday's vote, security was tight across the nation, but the moment everyone was dreading never happened.

Despite some confirmed reports of violence, the Taliban failed to derail the election as millions of Afghans joined the process of choosing a new leader, creating a voter turnout that was so robust some polling stations ran out of ballots.

Walking out of the polling stations under gray skies, voters — men and women, young and old — proudly showed their purple-ink-stained fingers, proof they had voted.

The head of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, appeared pleased with the result.

Story continues below photo gallery:
  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai shows his ballot paper to the media before he casts his vote at Amani high school, near presidential palace in Kabul, April 5, 2014.
  • Afghan men line up before casting their votes in a polling station in Herat.
  • A policeman stands guard outside a polling station in Kabul as Afghans queue to vote outside before it opens.
  • An Afghan policeman searches men before they enter a polling station in Adraskan district, Herat province.
  • An Afghan woman looks for a candidate on a ballot while voting during presidential and provincial elections in Adraskan district, Herat province.
  • An Afghan man dips his finger into ink before casting a vote at a polling station in Jalalabad, east of Kabul.
  • Women stand in line to vote at a polling station in Kabul.
  • An elderly woman shows another woman her inked finger after casting her ballot at a polling station in Kabul.

"Maybe more than seven million people voted," he said. "However, this is a preliminary, rough estimate, so the exact turnout can only be known once all the ballots are counted."

Preliminary results are expected by April 24, and a final tally of the votes is only to be announced May 14. But analysts are already predicting a second-round runoff.

U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement congratulating the "millions" of Afghans who voted in what he called the "historic" elections. He also paid tribute to Americans who have "sacrificed so much" to make the vote possible.

Obama also called the election critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future as well as continued international support.

The United Nations says this year's newly registered voters included 1.3 million women.

In Kabul

Dressed in traditional blue burqas or more Western suits, hundreds of Afghans from all backgrounds filed past heavy security and were searched by military personnel before crowding into polling stations to cast their ballots.

Once in, women and men entered different rooms to fill out large paper ballots, hopeful their votes will help bring peace and jobs to Afghanistan after years of war.

Haji Bibi, a 94-year-old woman almost bent double with age, was helped to a chair outside after having cast her ballot.

She said she is waiting for better things to come in life, and wishing for a peaceful life for the country, and that young and old people alike should vote for peace and security.

Sohila Sahar arrived at the polling station to vote covered in a pale purple scarf and holding her young daughter's hand. She said she is proud of her nation.

"I am very happy when I see all this around me, that all these people came out and want to elect their next leader through the ballot box," she said. "I am really happy. My message is that all women in all the villages should go and vote and elect their leaders. This is their God-given right."

Reports of violence

After Afghanistan's roughly 6,200 polling stations finally closed late in the day, the relief in Kabul was almost palpable, and the heavy security presence on the streets began to ease.

In the days and weeks preceding election day, the Taliban's plan to derail the vote had been defined by violent attacks — attacks whose casualties included election officials, police, candidates, journalists and other civilians.

Interior Minister Omar Daudzai said although Saturday's vote went relatively smoothly, it did come at a price: at least 16 security personnel were killed in clashes in the hours leading up to the vote, and the death toll among militants was even higher.

"In the past 24 hours, there were a total of 140 attacks or preparations for attacks," the minister said. "It’s difficult to give details, but the important point here is that for each Afghan national security-force member who died, four times more militants were killed."

Daudzai said nine police, seven soldiers and four civilians were killed by militant attacks, and 43 were wounded. He reported 89 insurgents were killed.

The Taliban claims to have carried out 246 attacks during the polling.

Neighboring Pakistan closed all border crossings with Afghanistan and deployed additional troops in an attempt to help Afghanistan conduct the election peacefully.

Pakistan said border security arrangements were stepped up in close coordination with Afghan security forces. Pakistan's government also said it will free 13 more Taliban prisoners in a bid to bolster talks aimed at ending an insurgency that has killed thousands of people in recent years.

Voter, observer turnout
Afghan women cast ballots at local polling station, Kabul, April 5, 2014.Afghan women cast ballots at local polling station, Kabul, April 5, 2014.
Afghan women cast ballots at local polling station, Kabul, April 5, 2014.
Afghan women cast ballots at local polling station, Kabul, April 5, 2014.
Voters had a list of eight presidential candidates to choose from, of which three are front-runners: Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official; Zalmai Rassoul, a former minister; and Abdullah Abdullah, also a former minister.

Some 450 provincial government seats also were at stake.

Turnout was reportedly good throughout most of the country, and was particularly heavy in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, according to local media.

Candidate Ghani, one of the three front-runners, had held huge political rallies in the southern province, the site of years of heavy fighting against the Taliban. Rassoul, however, has had a strong base in the south, and Abdullah Abdullah has drawn support from different areas of the country. President Hamid Karzai was prohibited from running for re-election.

Observers nominated by the candidates, government election officials and local independent monitors were standing watch inside the polling stations to guard against attempts to manipulate the vote, such as the widespread fraud that marred the country's last elections, in 2009.

According to the interior ministry, six people were arrested Saturday when they were caught cheating at the polls. Five others were detained in eastern Khost province when they were found carrying 1,000 fake IDs.

Ihmaduddin, an observer in a Kabul polling station, was determined to prevent any ballot rigging.

"It’s my job to control and supervise the voting process to prevent fraud," he said, explaining that he and others are also here to observe the ballot counting.

Twenty-one-year-old voter Idriss called the elections important for all Afghans.

“It is 10 years we are facing with bad problems in Afghanistan, in all sides of Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan, but we are, everybody, is trying to vote for a president who would be great for Afghanistan and make a future that is better for them,” he said.

Saturday's election is seen as pivotal for Afghanistan’s political and economic future, as well as a test of wills between the Afghan people and the Taliban.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: justiceforall
April 06, 2014 8:35 AM
Free votes, democracy and Afganistan, isn`t funy?

by: Jeff from: Cambodia
April 06, 2014 8:28 AM
Pathetic propaganda. An election where the most popular political party is banned and all candidates are paid CIA stooges will never be legit.

by: Trinri from: Melbourne
April 06, 2014 8:06 AM
The blue burqa isn't traditional - it is a uniform enforced by Taliban - traditional afghan clothing is very colorful- the reporter here did not do their research- or is not aware of recent history?

by: Not Again from: Canada
April 05, 2014 11:29 AM
The turnout is excellent news, especially given the number of women that are turning out, for they are the ones taking the greatest risk. Let us hope they collectively chose a progressive govenment, that positively changes Afghanistan towards a better democratic future.

by: Jim Ramsay from: Mobile AL
April 05, 2014 8:39 AM
So one of the poorest countries in the world requires voter ID and no one complains about vote suppression. They haven't learned how to play political games yet.

by: Bob from: Canada
April 05, 2014 8:26 AM
I have this sneaking suspicion that whoever gets "elected" accepts the USA Bilateral Security Agreement right away.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs