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.
x
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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid