10/11/2004, 00.00
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Afghans vote for the "future of the country and their children"

Ballot count postponed because of irregularities. Final results will be released in a few weeks.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – Counting of ballots from Afghanistan's presidential election held on Saturday, October 9, will not start today. The Election Commission announced that the authorities were waiting for instructions after some of the candidates made allegations about voting irregularities. An official statement is expected in late on Monday afternoon.

On Saturday, as voting was underway 15 of interim President Hamid Karzai's 17 challengers demanded the election be cancelled accusing the government and the United Nations of irregularities and incompetence. Karzai rejected the accusations saying that "we must respect the will of the people. It is too late to boycott the elections after millions of Afghans have cast their vote bracing dangers and bad weather".

International observer groups stated that the election was "fairly democratic". Both the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said that there were no grounds for cancelling the process.

Yesterday, 2 of the 17 candidates, who had previously decided to boycott the election, withdrew their demand for cancellation announcing however that they would accept the results only if an official investigation into the irregularities was made.

The controversy surrounding the election's legitimacy aside, Karzai said that October 9 was a victory for the whole nation. "Irrespective of who wins," he stressed, "this is a day in which the Afghan people re-emerge after three decades of war, foreign interference, poverty and destruction".

Turnout was generally heavy. Preliminary figures show that in some cities more than 80 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot. From early morning voters queued up in front of some 5,000 polling stations.

Giovanni Porta, director of operations of Aïna, a Kabul-based NGO, told AsiaNews that "it was generally a happy ambience with people, both young and old, filled with curiosity about something no one had done before". Porta, who went to see two polling stations, added that "many people said they expect the vote to further peace and economy recovery".

With their families' authorisation women went to vote as well for the "future of the country and their children".

The election was held under the cloud of Taliban threats to disrupt the process by force. All the armed forces present in the country –the Afghan National Army, the police, the territorial militias and international troops– were mobilised to guarantee a peaceful electoral process.

No major incident occurred on Saturday. An attack was prevented in Jalalabad after petrol tank truck was found holding rockets. Some isolated incidents took place in the south and the east but without any consequence for the election.

By contrast, various attacks were reported yesterday against trucks carrying ballot boxes to the eight regional centres. There were about 40 casualties, both Talibans and law enforcement officers.

Preliminary results are expected in two days whilst final results will be available in a few weeks. (MA)

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See also
Afghanistan starts counting votes
Elections: Afghanistan wants change
Afghanistan's first democratic elections (Overview)
Abdullah accuses Karzai. The U.S. military ask Obama for more troops
The slow march of the Afghan people towards democracy and religious freedom


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