Officials in Afghanistan say voting has been going smoothly. This was in spite of reports of a fire fight in the capital Kabul between police and three suspected Taliban suicide bombers. The Islamists are determined to disrupt the elections — the second held since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.
Incumbent President Hamid Karzai is expected to stay on in the job. He was among the earliest to vote.
Karzai said: “It’s the second presidential and parliamentary elections in Afghanistan and I’m sure that, Inch Allah, this will be for peace, for progress and for the wellbeing of the Afghan people.”
To avoid a run-off against his main challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai needs to win more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round.
Taliban intimidation has already interfered with election preparations and campaigning, and could prevent many Afghans from voting.
But Abdullah put on a brave face, saying: “I’m concerned about the violence which is underway today, about security incidents but on the whole I’m very positive.”
The polls opened with reports of sporadic Taliban rocket attacks in the south and east. Yet a UN spokesman said the vast majority of polling stations had been able to open.
The Taliban may be able to damage the vote even without big attacks, if their threats keep people from the ballot box. Extra police are on duty around-the-clock.