Alwaght- Voting for Afghanistan's presidential election begun on Saturday with more than 9 million registered voters potentially heading to the polls amid attacks in several cities.
Fourteen candidates are registered and about bout 9.6 million of Afghanistan’s 34 million people are registered to vote for one of the 14 candidates at around 5,000 polling centers that will be protected by some 100,000 Afghan forces with air support from US forces, Reuters reported.
“Bravado gets defined when one musters courage to cast their vote in Afghanistan,” said Roya Jahangir, a doctor based in the capital of Kabul.
Jahangir said she and her husband will cast their votes even if it means standing in long queues for hours.
“We hope this time there is no fraud — otherwise voters will feel cheated once again.”
Media showed lines of men and women outside numerous polling stations, indicating strong turnout in some areas.
In the northern province of Balkh, voters waited for election officials to arrive at polling stations set up in schools, colleges, mosques, hospital campuses and district centers.
An explosion inside a polling station in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar was confirmed by local officials, as witnesses said an ambulance rushed to the area.
Bahir Ahmadi, a spokesman for Kandahar’s provincial governor, confirmed the explosion and said so far three wounded had been transferred to the hospital.
Explosions also hit the Afghan cities of Kabul, Ghazni and Jalalabad, officials said.
The Taliban claimed the attacks in Ghazni, Kabul and in several other areas where explosions were not immediately confirmed.
POLLING STATIONS CLOSED
More than 400 polling centers will remain closed because they are situated in areas under Taliban control. Hundreds more will be closed because of security concerns.
The voting process is another source of concern. The country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has come under criticism for issuing contradictory and unclear statements over what processes will be in place to prevent fraud if biometric systems fail during the eight hours of voting.
Shaharzad Akbar, head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, tweeted that the biometric identification process initially resulted in errors before she was able to vote in Kabul.
“The process is too lengthy,” she said.
Four of the 18 candidates registered to contest for the top job have dropped out of the race, but their names remain on the biometric voting devices.