Voting was under way for Afghanistan’s presidential election on Saturday amid tight security arrangements, BBC reported. The two main candidates are the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani, and his chief executive Abdullah Abdullah.
More than 70,000 security forces have been deployed across the country to counter possible Taliban attacks at polling stations and other places. One person was killed and 15 injured in an explosion in a polling site in southern Kandahar province, reported Washington Post. There were multiple reports of minor violent incidents.
On September 17, two separate suicide attacks had killed at least 48 people and injured dozens. One of them took place at President Ashraf Ghani’s rally in the city of Charikar in Parwan province. The other took place in Kabul.
Voting, which began at 7 am local time (8 am Indian Standard Time) has been weaker than in past elections, ToloNews reported. Women’s participation in the polling so far has been particularly weak, the news agency said.
In Kabul, voting began late at some booths because poll workers did not show up. Another problem was the absence of voters’ names from the electoral list. There were also complaints about technical snags with biometric identification devices, though the Independent Election Commission said it had arranged for backup devices.
Turnout was low in Helmand, which ToloNews ascribed to the strong presence of the Taliban. This threat prevented people from casting their votes in at least five districts.
People in Kunduz began to cast their votes at 8 am local time (9 am IST). Seven polling stations in the province remained closed because of the Taliban threat, local officials said.
In Farah, 11 polling booths remained closed due to the Taliban threat. Voting in this province started late by half-an-hour. In Baghlan, 12 polling centres were closed. Unidentified individuals fired mortar shells to discourage people from voting.
“The security plan used to prevent attacks seems to be working so far...we have foiled insurgent attacks,” Abdul Moqim Abdulrahimzai, the director-general of operations and planning at the Interior Ministry told Reuters. However, The Independent Election Commission said it had no contact with 901 of the 4,942 polling centres across the country.
Voting in most parts of the country has been extended till 5 pm local time (6 pm IST), the Independent Election Commission said. The results of the polls will be known on November 7, Reuters reported.
The voting is taking place after talks between the United States and the Taliban collapsed earlier this month when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the dialogue. He had cited an attack in Kabul that killed 16 people, including an American soldier. The elections were delayed twice as a result of the turmoil in the country.
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