Afghans to vote in run-off election as US troops exit

June 13, 2014 - 8:00:29 am

KABUL: Afghans head to the polls Saturday for a second-round election to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, with the threat of Taliban attacks and fraud looming over the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

The vote pits former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah against ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani in a head-to-head contest to lead Afghanistan as US-led troops withdraw after 13 years of fighting Taliban insurgents.

April’s first-round vote was hailed a success as turnout topped 50 percent and Islamist militants failed to launch any high-profile attacks on polling day.

But Saturday presents another major challenge in the prolonged election process, which began with campaigning in early February and will end when the final result is announced on July 22.

“There is concern that the enemy who failed in the first round will seek revenge, but we can assure you they will fail again,” General Afzal Aman, head of Afghan army operations said.

“We have been conducting missions all over Afghanistan for election security for the past two months.”

Ahead of the vote, the Taliban issued a warning to voters, saying that polling booths would be targeted by “non-stop” assaults.

“By holding elections, the Americans want to impose their stooges on the people,” the insurgents said on their website.