Voter turnout falls sharply in Afghan presidential election

Voter turnout falls sharply in Afghan presidential election

A preliminary count of voter participation in the first round of Afghanistan’s presidential vote indicates a sharp drop in turnout, in an election held amid Taliban threats to disrupt the process.

The initial tally, released on Sunday by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, showed that with data from slightly more than half the polling stations, just under 1.1 million people had voted the previous day. 

If that turnout trend holds, it would represent a participation level of less than 25 percent – lower than any of Afghanistan’s three presidential elections since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

About 9.6 million Afghans in the war-torn nation – with an estimated population of 35 million – had registered to vote in Saturday’s election, which was held at some 4,900 polling stations.

In the 2014 election, about 60 percent or seven million of 12 million eligible voters participated. 

Voting on Saturday took place amid tight security with tens of thousands of troops and police deployed to guard polling stations and prevent the Taliban from launching attacks.

The vote was held in relative calm, but it was marred by a number of small attacks and complaints about the usage of a biometric identification system.   

Al Jazeera Rob McBride, reporting from the Afghan capital, Kabul, said the government was hailing the election as a success despite the low turnout. 

“They are trying to put a brave face on it that, yes despite the threats from the Taliban, the government has been able to maintain the certain level of security throughout the country even to the point that they extended the voting by two hours,” he said.

The Afghanistan Analysts Network said more than 400 attacks were reported across the country over the course of the election day.

The Taliban claimed to have conducted 531 attacks, while the interior ministry said “the enemy” had carried out 68 assaults.

More than a dozen candidates are vying for the country’s top job, led by incumbent Ashraf Ghani and his former deputy Abdullah Abdullah.

Preliminary results are not expected before October 19 and final results not until November 7. If no candidate gets over half of the votes, a second round will be held between the two leading candidates.

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