Afghanistan votes in crunch presidential run-off

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Afghanistan votes in crunch presidential run-off

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Voting is underway in Afghanistan in a crunch run-off election to decide who will succeed president Hamid Karzai.

In power since a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban in 2001, Karzai cast his ballot early on Saturday.

Despite the threat of Taliban violence, the vote paves the way for the first ever peaceful and democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history.

The final round run-off pits former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah against ex World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, after neither secured an outright majority.

While Abdullah remains the favorite, having polled 14 percentage points ahead of his rival, Ghani stands to gain a large portion of Afghanistan’s Pashtun vote.

The election process has been dogged by claims of fraud by both candidates and there are fears that a close outcome will make it less likely the loser will accept defeat, dragging the country into a protracted stand-off.

Security in the capital Kabul and across the country remains intense with the Taliban vowing to target polling stations.