Afghans braved the specter of militant assaults and delays at polling cubicles to vote in a presidential election on Saturday, a significant take a look at of the Western-backed authorities’s potential to guard democracy in opposition to Taliban makes an attempt to derail it.
The election was marred by quite a few small-scale Taliban assaults, however just one confirmed loss of life. Turnout was low, nonetheless, with the violence – plus earlier Taliban threats in opposition to polling stations – seemingly contributing components.
Voting was prolonged by two hours, as the beginning of polling was delayed across the nation with stations failing to open on time amid technical issues.
Impartial election observers and activists mentioned a gradual tempo to voting triggered confusion at some polling stations, with lengthy queues forming outdoors.
“It took the first voter 31 minutes to vote. For subsequent voters it was taking around five minutes and then it started to streamline to 3 minutes and 30 seconds,” mentioned Nishank Motwani, an observer stationed in Kabul.
“Election commission staff looked panicked and voters were getting angry that the queue was not moving.”
Some observers feared the Taliban had compelled a partial shutdown to upset the ultimate outcomes because the Impartial Election Fee’s (IEC), with out giving a motive, mentioned it had failed to determine contact with 901 of the 4,942 polling centres.
The hardline Islamist group, which controls extra of the nation than at any time since its regime fell in 2001, has warned the greater than 9 million registered voters to remain at house or face dire penalties.
Saturday’s presidential vote is the fourth for the reason that Taliban had been toppled.
A dozen candidates are vying for the presidency, led by incumbent Ashraf Ghani and his former deputy Abdullah Abdullah. Resulting from logistical difficulties, outcomes is not going to be identified till Nov. 7.
The winner will play an important function within the nation’s quest to finish the battle with the Taliban and any resumption of talks between them and the US that had been known as off this month.
To guard voters and polling stations, tens of 1000’s of troops had been deployed.
Abdul Moqim Abdulrahimzai, director-general of operations and planning on the Inside Ministry, mentioned a minimum of 21 civilians and two Afghan forces had been injured in a couple of dozen small-scale assaults in the course of the first hours of voting. Different assaults had been foiled, he mentioned.
A senior Western safety official in Kabul mentioned the Taliban had not performed large-scale assaults however had scared some voters away.
Early turnout was “very poor”, mentioned the Clear Election Basis of Afghanistan, additionally citing as a motive the requirement for voters to be photographed, to which feminine voters in conservative areas objected.
Others had been decided to vote.
“Bravado gets defined when one musters courage to cast ones vote,” mentioned Kabul physician Roya Jahangir (after casting his poll?). “We hope this time there is no fraud.”
A whole bunch of voters complained their names had been lacking from voters’ lists or the biometric gadgets used to forestall fraud. Addressing these considerations, the IEC eased restrictions, permitting anybody with election stickers on their nationwide identification playing cards to vote.
Polling stations attacked
Small-scale Taliban assaults came about throughout the nation.
An explosion at a polling station in a mosque within the southern metropolis of Kandahar wounded 16 individuals, in keeping with a safety supply.
Within the northern province of Faryab, Afghan forces clashed with Taliban fighters in six districts, forcing individuals to remain indoors and chorus from voting.
The Taliban mentioned their fighters attacked polling stations in Laghman province, in japanese Afghanistan. Officers mentioned 4 explosions within the japanese metropolis of Jalalabad, during which one particular person was killed, disrupted voting at some stations.
Blasts additionally hit Kabul and Ghazni, officers mentioned, whereas greater than 400 polling centres remained closed as a result of they had been in areas below Taliban management.
Western diplomats mentioned the dimensions of the Islamist militant group’s election assaults would decide whether or not talks with Washington resumed.
“Talks can only begin if the Taliban exercises restraint and allows people to vote,” mentioned one diplomat overseeing the elections.
Ghani solid his poll in a Kabul highschool, telling reporters: “I thank God that today that people’s vote will help the republic of Afghanistan to move forward.”
Abdullah voted at a distinct Kabul faculty. “The threats to innocent people do not show the strength of the Taliban,” he mentioned.
Each males got here to energy in 2014 after a bitterly contested election marred by fraud.
Afghanistans political scene continues to be tainted by the aftermath of that vote, which compelled the 2 predominant rival groupings to kind an unstable partnership. Either side had been accused of large electoral dishonest.