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Afghan Presidential Polls: Low Voter Turnout amid Sporadic Violence

Amid intermittent violence from Taliban militants who have determined to disrupt the country’s presidential polls, Afghans came out to elect their president for the second time after 2001, though the turnout was reportedly low.

Militants trooped into a small northern Afghan town and triggered clashes that prevented voting. Besides, fears of security kept turn out low in Taliban’s southern strongholds, said reports.

However, a fatal shootout in Kabul had little bearing as Western-backed President Hamid Karzai urged countrymen to come out to exercise their franchise.

Casting his ballot in a Kabul boys’ school near his heavily fortified palace, Karzai said, “I request my dear countrymen to come out and cast their vote to decide their future.”

Though minor attacks were reported in other parts including Kandhar in the south, which was the capital of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, officials, both Afghanistani and UN, said that the violence could have been far worse.

“The kind of spectacular attacks that we were warned about have not happened. The day is still not over but I must say I am pleased to see that so far the elections have been going on quite well,” said UN envoy Kai Eide.

In the meanwhile, an official appeared satisfied with the voter turnout. “The turnout is very good,” said deputy chief electoral officer Zekria Barakzai.

However, independent observers differed, according to whom voter participation in election was low. AFP quoted one Western diplomat as saying, “Turnout (in Kandahar) is definitely very, very low, significantly lower than in the north.”

“I have driven around the city (Kabul) and the situation is varying from time to time, but I have seen no queues and it is definitely very quiet, much quieter than in 2004,” he added, referring to the last presidential election.

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