Afghans vote in president elections amid deadly violence

Afghans vote in president elections amid deadly violence

KABUL: Afghans voted in presidential elections amid tight security on Saturday, even as insurgents attacked polling centers in a series of blasts and clashes across the country that left at least one person dead.
The first-round vote marks the culmination of a bloody election campaign that despite a large field of candidates is seen as a close race between President Ashraf Ghani and his bitter rival Abdullah Abdullah, the country’s chief executive.
Wary authorities placed an uneasy Kabul under partial lock down, flooding streets with troops and banning trucks from entering the city in an effort to stop would-be suicide bombers targeting residents as they cast their votes.
Voting was extended for two hours until 5:00pm (1230 GMT) due to long queues of people still waiting to cast their ballots, the Independent Election Commission said.
Compared to previous elections, the initial toll appeared relatively light, though Afghan national authorities were providing little information about reported blasts and ongoing armed clashes with the Taliban in various provinces.
One person was killed and two others wounded in an explosion near a polling centre in Jalalabad in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the provincial governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said.
And at least 16 people were wounded in the southern city of Kandahar when a bomb went off at a polling station, a hospital director told foreign news agency, while officials across the country reported several small explosions at other election sites.
The Taliban, who unleashed a string of bombings during the two-month election campaign, claimed to have conducted hundreds of attacks against Afghanistan’s “fake elections”.
Ghani, having voted at a Kabul high school, said the most important issue was finding a leader with a mandate to bring peace to the war-torn nation.
“Our roadmap (for peace) is ready, I want the people to give us permission and legitimacy so that we pursue peace,” said Ghani, who is seeking a second term.
Some 9.6 million Afghans are registered to vote, but many lack faith that after 18 years of war any leader can unify the fractious country and improve basic living conditions, boost the stagnating economy or bolster security.
Still, voters braved insurgent attacks and long queues to cast a ballot.
“I know there are security threats but bombs and attacks have become part of our everyday lives,” 55-year-old Mohiuddin, who only gave one name, told foreign news agency.
“I am not afraid, we have to vote if we want to bring changes.”
Abdullah and Ghani both claimed victory in the 2014 election — a vote so tainted by fraud and violence that it led to a constitutional crisis and forced then-US president Barack Obama to push for a compromise that saw Abdullah awarded the subordinate role.
“The only request I have from the election commission is that they ensure the transparency of the election because lots of people have lost their trust,” said Afghan voter Sunawbar Mirzae, 23. …Agencies


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