Extremely high voter turnout in Afghan elections despite Taliban threat

Many saw the threat of violence as the biggest concern on election day but officials found the biggest problem was running out of ballots and potential voter fraud.

By Aileen Graef

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 6 (UPI) -- Afghanistan's third presidential election saw remarkably high voter turnout despite threats of violence from the Taliban.

Election officials and poll staffers were faced with unexpected problems when polling stations ran out of ballots and voting hours were extended nationwide as a surge of voters turned out to decide who will be the next Afghan president.


A major factor in high voter turnout was the 1.3 million newly registered female voters, reported the UN. More than 20 million Afghans are registered to vote and expected turnout was 58 percent.

"I'm proud to practice democracy. I'm proud to come and vote. That means for me, a lot, because we slap on the face of the Afghanistan enemy," said Afghan parliament member Shukria Barekzai, praising the Afghan people for the courage and defiance.

Afghan police did confirm 140 attacks during the voting, significantly fewer than the number of attacks during other elections and fewer than the hundreds of attacks the Taliban claimed to execute. The casualty toll was lower than what would be considered a "normal day" in the country.

With the low violence, voter fraud has become the number one issue clouding these elections.


Stuffed ballot boxes, fake votes, and illegal voting tarred the 2009 election, leaving more than 1 million votes disqualified. This concern mounts with the potential of a run-off election if one of the three candidates does not receive a majority of the vote. A run-off election could delay the naming of a president until July or later.

This election will mark the end of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's 13 years in office since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001.


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