Afghan election workers count ballots during the presidential elections, at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Afghans headed to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president amid high security and Taliban threats to…
Afghan election workers count ballots in the presidential elections at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 28, 2019. An unofficial estimate put voter turnout at a little more than 2 million voters out of nearly 10 million.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Afghanistan's presidential election turnout is unofficially estimated at just more than 2 million people or about 20 percent of registered voters, an official said Sunday, solidifying fears that a low participation rate could mar the vote.

The figure is a sharp drop from the roughly 7 million who turned out to vote in the last presidential election in 2014.

Tight security ensured the election took place Saturday in relative calm, but low turnout and complaints about the voting system heightened fears an unclear result could drive the war-torn country into further chaos.

To be sure, many Afghans braved the threat of militant attacks to vote in an election seen as a major test of the Western-backed government's ability to protect democracy against Taliban attempts to derail it.

But of 9.67 million registered voters, only about 1 in 5 cast their ballot, according to the election commission official who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to release a turnout figure.

Previous elections were tainted by accusations of fraud, dozens of deaths and allegations that the election commission was not independent. Memories of those issues hung over Saturday’s vote.

Deteriorating security and Taliban warnings not to take part also deterred many from the polls.

Taliban fighters attacked several polling stations across the country to try to derail the process, but intense security prevented the large-scale violence.

Preliminary results are not expected before Oct. 19 and final results not until Nov. 7. If no candidate gets over half of the votes, a second round will be held between the two leading candidates.

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