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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid