The two top contenders to be president of Afghanistan are both claiming they have won the election in the first round, and will not need a run-off. (Ballot-counting began right after voting stations closed yesterday.) The campaign chief for the incumbent President Hamid Karzai, who is favoured to win, said initial results show that Karzai has an outright majority.
It is up to the election commission to announce the definitive official results. That is forecast to be at least two weeks down the road. A spokesman for Karzai’s only serious challenger, his former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, said the Karzai claim was not true: “We say the same thing; Maybe we won’t need a second round and Abdulla won.” There were reports of a poor turnout and widespread fraud, on top of Taliban threats to attack anyone even trying to vote. The international community welcomed the operation as largely peaceful, although Kabul says nine civilians and 14 security personnel died in Taliban attacks. The UN Security Council has congratulated the Afghan people for their participation in Thursday’s election. The capital Kabul was relatively quiet, as two days of holiday were decreed to allow for the vote. It has also given time for Afghans to digest the events. Passers-by had this to say: “In some of the provinces, the roads were closed, and in some provinces, because of the rockets and other incidents, people were not able to go. In Kabul it was good, although with lots of challenges — people voted for their favourite candidate.” And: “Yesterdays elections went really well and it was fun. During the elections, the security forces were behaving very well with the people. In some places, there were problems, but this happens in every country. This is the second election in Afghanistan.” That is since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. The people of Afghanistan have a chance to relax following the increased tension brought on by the poll. All eyes are now on the vote count.