With 10 percent of votes counted in the April 5 election, Abdullah leads with 42 percent, compared with 38 percent for Ghani, according to the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan in Kabul. A runoff will take place between the two top candidates if no single candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the vote. “The results will change,” Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, the election commission chairman, told reporters in Kabul yesterday. “It is possible that one candidate is the front-runner in today’s press conference, and there will be another front-runner in the next press conference.” The Afghan government said voter turnout doubled from the previous presidential election in a show of defiance against Taliban insurgents who have sought to disrupt the poll. The vote paves the way for the first democratic transfer of power since the U.S. ousted the group in 2001.
Articles about voting issues in The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
It is not true to say that Afghanistan lacks good-news stories. It’s just that they are not the kind to generate headlines: 8m children at school, two-fifths of them girls, compared with 1m when the Taliban were in power; a tenfold increase in those Afghans with access to basic health care; some 20m who own mobile phones; and proliferating television channels, radio stations and newspapers. By contrast, the good-news story of the presidential election on April 5th was generating both headlines and surprise—and that is even before a result has been announced. The expectation was for another flawed election like the one in 2009. Jeremiahs predicted that a combination of fraud, intimidation and violence would produce only a tainted, illegitimate government. That would give weary donors of international aid all the excuse they needed to stop signing the cheques keeping the country afloat. The only real winners would be the Taliban. Yet in this election Afghans of all kinds rejected that account of their country. Despite the threat of Taliban reprisals (and rotten weather), over 7m Afghans, about 60% of those eligible, appear to have voted, half as many again as in 2009. Around 35% of those who cast a ballot were women. Burka-clad voters raising an ink-stained finger as they left the polling booths became a symbol of defiance.
The Taliban launched a series of attacks, focused mainly on the capital Kabul, just a few days ahead of Afghanistan’s landmark April 5 presidential poll. The militant group had threatened to attack polling stations during the vote and warned people against casting their ballots. But activists and ordinary Afghans reacted by taking to the Internet and launching a massive social media campaign where they expressed their determination to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has been ever since the fall of the Taliban 13 years ago. Karzai is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. Pictures and slogans saying “Yes, I will Vote!” (main picture) circulated among thousands of Afghan social media users. The campaign paid off on April 5 when millions of Afghans took to polling stations to cast their votes despite the terror threats. The turnout was so high that many polling stations across the country ran out of ballot papers and Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) had to extend voting by an hour. The electoral body estimates that approximately 58 percent – seven out of 12 million eligible voters cast their ballots on Election Day.
Six women were arguing with the security guards of Zarghuna High School in central Kabul to let them enter the compound for voting. The guards argued that it was already 5 p.m. and the women could not be let in as voting had closed. Still, the women insisted. The head of security came in and he too tried to drive in the point that the p.m. deadline had passed but the women contended that a few minutes here and there did not make much of a difference and if they missed the chance this time they would have a long wait ahead of them to vote, which they said they did not want to do. Seeing their determination, the chief relented and allowed them to enter the school and they were ushered into the last classroom where the ballot box was just about to be sealed. The women voted and left the school flashing their inked fingers. This was the mood in Afghanistan on Saturday when the country voted for in its first democratic transition of government; the country had never seen this kind of zeal to vote. According to initial estimates given by the Independent Election Commission, 7 out of twelve million registered voters cast their vote on April 5th, meaning close to 60 percent of eligible voters came out to exercise their democratic rights. The turnout is double what it was in the 2009 elections. It was higher than the first elections in 2004 as well.
Afghanistan has begun tallying votes from the weekend’s historic presidential elections, a process that will take weeks to complete, but rough early counts suggest that the country is heading for a second-round showdown between two former ministers. Voters defied Taliban intimidation, turning out in unexpectedly high numbers on Saturday to choose a successor to Hamid Karzai, who has ruled for 12 years and is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term. The Taliban mounted nearly 700 attacks nationwide, said General Zahir Azimy, spokesman for the defence ministry, but fears of a bloody, dramatic attack in the capital or another major city during the election proved unfounded. The day ended with an outpouring of support for the 350,000 police and soldiers on duty around the country, who for the first time secured an election without foreign support.
In this rugged country where ballots are counted by hand and election results are viewed with suspicion, impatient presidential candidates are not willing to wait for official numbers and have started counting votes themselves. After Saturday’s presidential election, tens of thousands of volunteers for the candidates are visiting polling stations across the country to call in results that have been taped on the walls of mosques and schools. The team of former finance minister Ashraf Ghani has created a website with pie charts and bar graphs that show partial returns as they come in, three weeks ahead of the expected announcement of the winner. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his website is projecting that he will be the victor (by a margin of 57 percent, with a quarter of the ballots counted). The days after the vote have transformed campaign offices into command centers where candidates’ staffs are calling around the country collecting photos and videos and complaints about alleged fraud, calculating vote totals and positioning themselves for a possible runoff election if no candidate passes the 50 percent threshold. The early and partial results, which have been bandied about on social media and are showing a tight race between Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, have galled the candidates who appear to be losing.
Former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah appeared to be the two front-runners in Afghanistan’s presidential election, sidelining a candidate viewed as President Hamid Karzai’s favorite, according to partial results tallied by news organizations and one candidate. A victory for Mr. Abdullah or Mr. Ghani could significantly reduce the influence of Mr. Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion. Both candidates say they will sign the bilateral security agreement, which is needed to maintain American aid and a limited U.S. military presence in Afghanistan once the international coalition’s current mandate expires in December. Mr. Karzai has infuriated Washington by refusing to complete the deal. The Wall Street Journal tallied partial election results from visits to roughly 100 polling stations, out of more than 20,000 nationwide, in the capital Kabul and the cities of Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, Kandahar in the south, and Gardez and Jalalabad in the east. At nearly all these stations, Messrs. Ghani and Abdullah were the clear leaders, according to counts posted by local poll supervisors. Mr. Karzai’s former foreign minister, Zalmai Rassoul, trailed far behind.
Millions of Afghans defied Taliban threats and rain on Saturday, underscoring their enormous expectations from an election that comes as the country’s wobbly government prepares to face down a ferocious insurgency largely on its own. With combat forces from the U.S.-led coalition winding down a 13-year presence and the mercurial Hamid Karzai stepping aside, the country’s new leader will find an altered landscape as he replaces the only president Afghans have known since the Taliban was ousted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. But for some, progress — particularly with women’s rights — the country’s situation is inauspicious, especially with its poor security and battered economy. Yet despite spiraling carnage and grave disappointments, Afghans by the millions crowded mosque courtyards and lined up at schools to vote, telling a war-weary world they want their voices heard. Nazia Azizi, a 40-year-old housewife, was first in line at a school in eastern Kabul. “I have suffered so much from the fighting, and I want prosperity and security in Afghanistan,” she said. “I hope that the votes that we are casting will be counted and that there will be no fraud in this election.”
Security has been a scarce commodity in Afghanistan for some time, but the Taliban’s recent spate of attacks intended to disrupt the April 5 elections – and the promise of more to come – have amplified the sense of insecurity. Assaults targeting international observers and the election commission itself have left open questions regarding the legitimacy and the security of Saturday’s vote. In an attempt to calm nerves and promise a safe day at the polls, the Interior Ministry, coupled with Afghan Special Forces, planned a press conference on Thursday to answer security questions. But things did not go as planned; after Wednesday’s deadly attack on the MOI’s compound within central Kabul’s heavily guarded “steel belt”, it started to seem that the Taliban can strike at will. So can the security apparatus improve confidence?
Afghans are excited about the upcoming presidential poll. For the first time in history the war-torn country will see the transfer of power from one elected president to another. But for Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, the April 5 election will just be another ordinary day as they have been officially disenfranchised. The Afghan election commission says it does not have sufficient resources to make proper polling arrangements for the Pakistani Afghans, most of whom dwell in the refugee camps along the Pakistani-Afghan border. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, there are around 2.6 million registered Afghans in Pakistan, most of whom had migrated to the neighboring Islamic republic during the 1980s Afghan war against the Soviet forces. After the US invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent toppling of the Islamist Taliban government in 2001, many Afghans moved back to their homeland. A large number, however, preferred to stay back in Pakistan. Afghanistan allowed its citizens in Pakistan to vote in the 2004 presidential vote, but in the 2009 election, they were excluded due to security risks. Incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai was successful in both elections.