Voting begins in Afghanistan depite Taliban threats
Afghans began voting on Saturday in parliamentary elections overshadowed by chaotic organization, allegations of corruption and violence that has forced a postponement of the vote in the strategic southern province of Kandahar.
Taliban militants have issued a series of statements telling people not to take part in what they consider a foreign-imposed process and warning election centers may be attacked.
Voters however defied the threats by Taliban as they came out en-mass to cast their votes.
President Ashraf Ghani visited a polling station to cast his own ballot, requesting “that every Afghan woman and man should exercise their right to vote.”
Officials worry that violence will keep voters away from polling stations, particularly following the assassination of the police chief of Kandahar on Thursday, which forced authorities to delay the election in the province by a week.
Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed across the country but already nine candidates have been assassinated and hundreds of people killed and wounded in election-related attacks.
Polls opened at 7.00 a.m. (0230 GMT) and voting is due to continue until 4.00 p.m. Due to the difficulty of collecting and collating results across Afghanistan, the overall results will not be known for at least two weeks.
There were isolated security incidents, including rockets in capital city Kabul and the northern city of Kunduz. Reports of gunfire outside Ghazni city in central Afghanistan and minor blasts in Kapisa province and districts outside the capital Kabul but no reports of major casualties.
Election authorities originally planned 7,355 polling centers but only 5,100 will be able to open due to security concerns, according to the Independent Election Commission, overseeing the vote.
Voting has also been delayed in Ghazni province, by arguments about the representation of different ethnic groups.