Millions of Afghans defied threats by the Taliban to vote in the country’s landmark presidential elections on Saturday, with turnout exceeding expectations.
Long queues of voters waited throughout the day outside many of the 6,400 polling centres, with the final turnout expected to exceed 50 percent - a significant increase on the country’s last presidential elections in 2009, when only around a third of voters cast ballots.
The Taliban had urged their fighters to target polling staff, voters and security forces, but there were no major attacks reported during the day as a massive security operation sought to minimise the risk of violence.
Counting will now begin as the country chooses its successor to President Hamid Karzai in what will be Afghanistan’s first-ever democratic transfer of power, though preliminary results are not due until April 24.
A total of eight candidates stood in the election, with no clear favourite among the front-runners to succeed Karzai - former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, Abdullah Abdullah, who was runner-up in the 2009 election, and former World Bank academic Ashraf Ghani.
If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round a run-off is scheduled for late May.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
In pictures: Afghans go to the polls
In Kandahar, as in the rest of the country, voters were subjected to police searches before they could enter polling stations. (AFP)
A police officer keeps order as a long queue forms outside a polling station in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan. (AFP)
Voters turned out in large numbers in the central city of Ghazni, despite the Taliban’s threats of violence. (AFP)
Women voters are searched by female security personnel outside a polling station in Kabul. (AFP)
Three Afghan women vote in the city of Heart in western Afghanistan, close to the Iranian border. (AFP)
Despite a number of minor incidents, the elections were carried out without any major disruptions, with fears of large-scale attacks by the Taliban failing to materialise. (AFP)
Date created : 2014-04-05