KABUL — Life has returned to normal on the streets of Kabul.
Voters who defied Taliban threats to cast their ballots for a new president over the weekend are now focused on the future, and they are asking that political candidates and rivals, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, will bridge their differences for the good of the nation.
Syed Masood Islami, who is unemployed, says he hopes whoever wins, goes beyond party politics and works for the good of the nation.
“I ask that the next president bring security to Afghanistan. Once we have that, our economy will improve, and once the economy is better, we will be able to get jobs and then people’s quality of life will improve," Islami said.
About 7 million people chose Saturday between candidates Ghani, an ex-World Bank official, and Abdullah, a former foreign minister, to be the country’s next leader.
Analyst Mir Ahmad Joyenda of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit says the vote is a turning point for the country.
“Now, after hundreds of years, finally the people of Afghanistan have come to the conclusion that their vote can change their fate and their destiny,” Joyenda said.
Claims of voter fraud
U.N. special representative to Afghanistan Jan Kubis has warned of the dangers of political polarization.
“At the end of the day when it will be clear who is the next president of the country, there will also be an agreement on how he will cooperate with the people with the group with the team of the second because this is perhaps the way for the future of the country," Kubis said.
But rival candidates Abdullah and Ghani are both claiming evidence of voting irregularities, and appear far from ready to cooperate politically.
International and national leaders said it is crucial for Afghanistan’s electoral commissions to deal with reports of fraud and deliver a credible election result to the people.
The country is facing too many difficulties to be able to absorb divisive political clashes, Joyenda said.
“The insurgency is a challenge, interferences from neighboring countries are challenges, corruption is a challenge, rule of law is challenge, land-grabbing is a challenge, mafia is challenge, money laundering is challenge, there is a lot of challenges," he said. "Without the cooperation from both sides, we cannot solve these issues and these problems.”
Preliminary results of the election are expected July 2, with the final results to be announced July 22.