Afghanistan votes in historic presidential election

April 05, 2014 - 10:00:55 am

KABUL: Millions of Afghans began voting Saturday to choose a new leader in an election that could lead to the first democratic transfer of power in the nation's 5,000 year history.

About 12 million voters are eligible to cast ballots at some 6,400 polling centers across the country, according to IEC. 

Around 400,000 security forces have been deployed.

There are eight presidential candidates, including opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah, former World Bank technocrat Ashraf Ghani and former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul.

Outgoing President Hamid Karzai has cast his vote early Saturday amid tight security across the country.

The voting began without incident, but insecurity and fraud remain the top concerns for election day, according to officials.

More than 350,000 Afghan troops have been put on duty to thwart attacks on polling stations and voters. 

The capital, Kabul, has been sealed off from the rest of the country by rings of roadblocks and checkpoints.

Taliban had vowed to disrupt Saturday's poll. 

The group has followed through on that threat, carrying out several attacks in the capital Kabul and across the country that have left many dead and created an atmosphere of insecurity. 

It warned civilians they would be targeted if they try to vote, and at least 10 percent of polling stations are expected to be shut due to security threats.

Most people expect the election will be better run than the chaotic 2009 vote that handed Karzai a second term amid massive fraud and ballot stuffing.

But it could take months, perhaps until October, for a winner to be declared at a time when the country desperately needs a leader to stem rising violence as foreign troops prepare to leave.

If no one candidate wins over 50 percent, the two with the most votes go into a run-off on May 28. (QNA)