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.
    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.

    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora