KABUL: Afghans began voting process for landmark presidential election here on Saturday morning. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah cast their votes after the Independent Election Commission officially inaugurated the voting process at 7 am.
Citizens across the country have been waiting in long queues to practice their votes and select their next president.
“I am here for the first time in my life to cast vote and select my president. I can’t express my feelings,” a female voter, Sakina 22, waiting in a long queue at Zarghona High School told The Kabul Times, adding people’s presence in ballot centers sending a strong message for those opposing democracy and democratic processes.
Another woman, Shukria 31, at the same center asked electoral commissions to keep impartiality and bring transparency to the election affairs.
Fourteen candidates are registered and the winner will play a crucial role in the country’s quest to end the war with the Taliban and the resumption of talks between the insurgents and the United States that were called off earlier this month.
The insurgents, mainly Taliban militants have threatened voters to stay away from the election or face dire consequences. To protect voters and polling stations from Taliban attacks tens of thousands of Afghan forces were deployed across 34 provinces.
About 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 U.S. forces.
Media showed lines of men and women outside numerous polling stations, indicating strong turnout in some areas.
In the northern provinces of Balkh, Jawzjan and Samangan voters waited for election officials to arrive at polling stations set up in schools, colleges, mosques, hospital campuses and district centers.
“I am here to vote and safeguard a democratic system,” said Alam khan 52, an architect while voting in PD 3 of northern Mazar-e-Sharif city. He said that will vote with his family event had to wait for hours.
“We hope this time there is no fraud otherwise voters will feel cheated once again,” a male voter Musa 41 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.
The election is the fourth presidential vote since the fall of the Taliban to U.S.-led forces.
Meanwhile voters in Khost Province said they were at the ballot centers to defy Taliban threats and to bring about bright futures for the next generations.
“I have accepted threats, but will vote and select a person to develop my country and put end to all unrest in the country,” Obaidullah 27 said.
The Kabul Times