Afghan election sees big drop in voter numbers

Monday, 30 Sep, 2019

Calling "successful conduct" of Afghan presidential elections as "important milestone", India has said that the election is a "people's efforts to promote peace, security, stability, prosperity and democracy" in the country "amidst challenging circumstances". One person was killed and 15 injured in an explosion in a polling site in southern Kandahar province, reported Washington Post.

The Taliban said their fighters attacked polling stations in the eastern province of Laghman. He confirmed there had been civilian casualties, but could not give a number.

The landmark presidential polls - only the fourth since the fall of the Taliban in December 2001 - ended on Saturday with some incidents of violence reported from across the war-torn country.

A deeply flawed election and contested result could drive the war-weary country into chaos.

In Farah, 11 polling booths remained closed due to the Taliban threat.

An member of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) has said that an unofficial estimate of voter turnout in the country's September 28 presidential election shows that a little more than 2 million voters cast ballots - a sharp drop from roughly 7 million who turned out for the last presidential election in 2014.

The Afghan residents bravely defied the warnings from the Taliban movement and headed to polls to choose the country's president amid growing threats of violence and uncertainty.

In Khoja Ali Mohfaq Herawi mosque in Kabul's well-to-do Shahr-e-Now neighborhood, election workers struggled with biometric machines as well as finding names on voters' lists. He said those candidates who have complained about the rigging can approach the institutions concerned.

The poll is largely seen as a race between Ghani and his main rival and current government chief Abdullah Abdullah, but there are 12 other candidates in the fray. He praised election officials on the completion of the process and the security institutions to maintain security for the elections. Candidates need more than 50 percent of the vote to be declared the outright victor, or else the top two will head for a second round in November.

Officials say final results will be announced within three weeks.

Preliminary results are not expected before October 17 and final results not until November 7.

Ghani is the front-runner, although he's facing accusations of corruption and abuse of power.

Another prominent candidate and former warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, warned that "if the vote wasn't fair and transparent, he would call on his thousands of supporters across the country to perhaps go back to the battlefield", according to Glasse. Like Ghani, he's also an ethnic Pashtun.

Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani speaks after casting his vote in the presidential election in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has been roiled by conflict and bloodshed over the past several decades.

"It is the only way to show the Taliban we are not afraid of them", he said, though he too anxious at the apparent glitches in the process.

Some 20,000 American and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces remain in the country after formally ending their combat role in 2014.

With the "shooting while talking" modus operandi that the Talibs borrowed from the Americans still in play, Afghanistan, lying as it does at the heart of an all too obvious battle for control between India and Pakistan, is now paying the price for US President Donald Trump's reckless pursuit of a backroom deal with Pakistan - a Kabul exit in return for Kashmir?

The US now has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, and there are thousands more from countries that are part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission to train, advise and assist the country's security forces.

Several prominent leaders had also cast their ballots and urged the people to come out in large numbers and exercise their franchise.

The Taliban militant group claimed responsibility for some of the attacks.