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Polls Open in Historic Afghan Election


DC09

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KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's first-ever direct presidential election began Saturday, with people across this ethnically diverse land casting the first ballots in an improbable experiment with democracy.

After 25 years of near constant war — and under a Taliban threat of ruinous violence — voters descended on bombed-out schools, blue-domed mosques, and bullet-pocked hospitals to choose their leader for the first time in their history.

Interim leader Hamid Karzai is widely expected to win the vote against 15 rivals, among them warlords, royalists and even an Islamic poet. But the size of the field could deny Karzai the outright majority needed to avert a run-off.

A 19-year-old Afghan refugee in Pakistan became the election's first voter early Saturday, casting a ballot in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

"I cannot explain my feelings, just how happy I am," said Moqadasa Sidiqi, a science student whose family escaped Kabul in 1992 during the Afghan civil war. "I would never have thought I would be able to vote in this election."

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My fingers are crossed for the people of Afghanistan...Of course they have been threatened by the taliban that there would be violence at the polling sights...

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KABUL, Afghanistan - A bomb exploded at a polling station in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif early Saturday, a Western official said, shattering what had been a relatively calm start to this nation's first-ever presidential election.

There was no immediate word on casualties.

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Truck Fire Casues Confusion in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan - A truck caught fire near a northern polling station, causing no casualties but some confusion in a nation on edge as it holds its first-ever presidential election amid a threat of Taliban violence.

A Western official said on condition of anonymity that a bomb had gone off at a polling station in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, but peacekeeping officials and the governor in control of the town said no such bombing had occurred.

Lt. Cmdr. Ken Mackillop, a spokesman for the peacekeepers, said there had been a truck fire at a polling station in the northern city of Maimana, but that it did not cause any casualties.

A spokesman for Balkh Gov. Atta Mohammed, Ahraf Nadeem, also said there had been no significant violence in the northern areas.

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Afghan vote boycott creates turmoil

Afghanistan's first democratic election has been thrown into confusion after it was announced that most presidential candidates were boycotting it.

The move follows claims of widespread voting irregularities.

The boycott was agreed by 15 candidates opposed to the favourite, the interim President Hamid Karzai, reports say.

A spokesman for the joint UN-Afghan electoral commission said the vote would continue as it had been generally "safe and orderly".

BBC News Online's Sanjoy Majumder in Kabul says it will be a major setback for poll organisers if the credibility of the election is undermined.

The vote has been widely seen as a chance for Mr Karzai to extend his authority beyond the capital, Kabul. He has led the country since the fall of the hard-line Islamic Taleban nearly three years ago.

'Call it off'

The boycott has for now overshadowed fears that Taleban militants might disrupt the vote.

"Today's election is not a legitimate election," presidential candidate Abdul Satar Sirat said after hosting a meeting in which it is reported that 15 candidates signed up to the boycott.

"It should be stopped and we don't recognise the results."

The allegations of voter fraud arose after complaints that the indelible ink used to mark voters' fingers can be washed off.

The only woman candidate, Masooda Jalal, told the Associated Press: "The ink that is being used can be rubbed off in a minute. Voters can vote 10 times."

Earlier on Saturday polling was briefly suspended in some areas of the capital, Kabul, and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif while the complaints were investigated.

But our correspondent says the extent of potential fraud remains to be seen, and the row has provided a convenient rallying point for a previously disunited opposition.

A senior United Nations official helping supervise the vote said that "overall it has been safe and orderly".

"The vote will continue because halting the vote at this stage is unjustified and would deny these people their right to vote," Ray Kennedy said.

On hearing reports of the boycott, some voters in Kabul urged candidates not to be hasty.

"This is Afghanistan's first election. There are bound to be problems. Give it a chance," one man, Dost Mohammed, told BBC News Online.

But others were more sceptical.

"I believe those who have boycotted the elections are right. I saw myself that I could easily rub the ink from our fingers," said Ibadullah, a student.

'Optimistic'

Apart from Mr Karzai, only two other candidates have not signed up to the boycott, reports say. They both stood down in his favour on the last day of the campaign.

It is not clear how the election organisers will respond to the boycott. Earlier they had insisted that voting would continue.

Farook Wardak, head of the Joint Election Management Board, said marker pens were being used in some cases instead of the indelible ink, while in other cases, the correct ink was being applied to the wrong part of the finger.

"Where the correct ink is applied it stays on," he told BBC News Online.

President Karzai voted early in Kabul, saying it was a great day for the Afghan people.

He is widely tipped to win, although Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum and Tajik former education minister Yunus Qanuni have fought high-profile campaigns.

Correspondents say much will depend on how the country's various power brokers react to the result and how far the victor is prepared to challenge the political status quo in a country sometimes described as a series of mini-fiefdoms.

Security has been the leading concern in the run-up to the election, with up to 100,000 Afghan and international security personnel on high alert.

The first vote was cast by an Afghan refugee in neighbouring Pakistan, where voting opened slightly earlier.

"I am very happy," said 19-year-old Moqadasa Sidiqi, after she voted in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Voting is scheduled to finish at 1600 local time (1130GMT), but could be extended if there is a large turnout and people still wish to vote.

Ballot boxes will then be sealed and transported to eight regional counting centres.

Initial results are expected in the coming days but it may take a couple of weeks for all the votes to be counted.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...sia/3727324.stm

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Well what another fine mess.

George bush took great delight in referring to afghanistan last night lol, how daft does he look this morning eh???

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Oh yeah schoolboy error.

I think tehy do ......they just dont believe it.

Its a leftist , liberal conspiracy and noones boycoting the election.

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Afghan vote ends in controversy

Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election has passed off peacefully, but ended in controversy as opposition candidates called for a boycott.

The move followed claims of voting irregularities.

Interim President Hamid Karzai - who is expected to win - said the result should be respected and praised Afghans for participating "massively".

He urged everyone to await the verdict on the voting process by the joint UN-Afghan Election Commission.

The dispute centres on the supposedly indelible ink that had been dabbed on to voters' thumbs to show they voted. Many voters were able to wipe the ink off.

Despite the wrangling among the candidates, BBC correspondents around Afghanistan have reported great levels of enthusiasm among ordinary people for the democratic process.

Mr Karzai - who has led the country since the fall of the hard-line Islamic Taleban in 2001 - bluntly dismissed the candidates' complaints.

"Who is more important, these 15 candidates or the millions of people who turned out today to vote?" he asked journalists in Kabul.

'Safe and orderly'

Mr Karzai said all the candidates "should respect our people, because in the dust and snow and rain, they waited for hours and hours to vote".

Earlier a senior United Nations official helping supervise the vote said that "overall it has been safe and orderly".

"The vote will continue because halting the vote at this stage is unjustified and would deny these people their right to vote," Ray Kennedy said.

Security was the leading concern in the run-up to the election, with up to 100,000 Afghan and international security personnel on high alert.

Taleban militants had threatened to disrupt the poll.

Fifteen of the 18 candidates signed up to the boycott.

The Associated Press reported the only woman candidate, Masooda Jalal, as saying: "The ink that is being used can be rubbed off in a minute. Voters can vote 10 times."

The extent of potential fraud remains to be seen, but correspondents say the row has provided a convenient rallying point for a previously disunited opposition.

'Optimistic'

President Karzai is widely tipped to win, although Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum and Tajik former education minister Yunus Qanuni have fought high-profile campaigns.

The first vote was cast by an Afghan refugee in neighbouring Pakistan, where voting opened slightly earlier.

"I am very happy," said 19-year-old Moqadasa Sidiqi, after she voted in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Voting was extended in some areas to cope with demand.

The sealed ballot boxes are now due to be transported to eight regional counting centres.

Initial results are expected in the coming days but it may take a couple of weeks for all the votes to be counted.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...sia/3729968.stm

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Observers approve Afghan election

International observers have endorsed Afghanistan's first presidential election, rejecting opposition calls for a new poll amid reports of fraud.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said demands by 15 of the 18 presidential candidates to annul the poll were "unjustified".

The local Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) said the poll was "fairly democratic".

Saturday's poll was marred by claims of alleged flaws in the voting procedures.

The OSCE - which contributed to the 230 foreign monitors - acknowledged that there were some irregularities during the poll that should be investigated.

However, OSCE Ambassador Robert Barry said "the candidates' demand to nullify the election is unjustified and would not do service to the people of Afghanistan who came out yesterday, at great personal risk, to vote".

Meanwhile, FEFA - the single largest observer group - said that "a fairly democratic environment has generally been observed in the overall majority of the polling centres".

The UN, which helped organise the poll, has praised the "massive" turnout in the election.

More than 10 million people were registered to vote, many of them refugees living in Pakistan and Iran.

The ousted Taleban regime has dismissed the election as foreign-sponsored and has said it will continue its armed struggle.

However, fears that militants linked to the Taleban would carry out their threat to sabotage the vote appear to have been largely unfounded.

Ink stains

The vote was marred by reports that an ink used to stain voters' fingers to prevent them from casting their ballot more than once could be washed away.

This prompted all the candidates opposing interim President Hamid Karzai - the favourite to win the race poll - to call for the election result to be annulled.

However, several candidates on Sunday appeared set to drop calls for a vote boycott.

Their representatives told the BBC they would instead accept the findings of an independent inquiry into alleged irregularities.

Mohammed Mohaqeq, one of Mr Karzai's main rivals, was the first to announce he was withdrawing his backing for the boycott.

Mr Mohaqeq said he wanted a UN commission to investigate the election and he would accept its ruling on its legitimacy.

Other candidates are also withdrawing calls for a boycott in favour of a more conciliatory approach, according to the BBC's Andrew North in Kabul.

President Karzai criticised the move as an affront to the hopes of the millions of Afghans who braved bad weather and the threat of terrorism to turn out to vote.

He told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme on Sunday that a commission would inquire into the alleged voting malpractices.

Counting centres have begun tallying the ballots but their task is unlikely to be completed soon - votes cast in far-flung reaches of the mountainous country will take days to arrive, some of them by donkey.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...sia/3731746.stm

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Afghan officials hail Kandahar poll

By Paul Anderson

BBC correspondent in Kandahar

Afghan officials are running out of superlatives to describe the election in Kandahar. And the ones they use sound nothing like the superlatives normally associated with the town in the heartland of the Taleban.

"It was like a festival," said the provincial governor, Engineer Yusef Pashtoon.

Two days ago he told me the most likely time for attack by the Taleban was in the days before the vote, because it would scare voters back into their homes. But no attacks - at least against major population centres - ever materialised.

Instead, the images from this dusty and parched town, will be of hundreds of men and women patiently waiting in queues to vote, bracing themselves against the first snap of the coming winter.

"This moment is the beginning of a new history in Afghanistan, a new chapter," said Palwar, an anthropologist who goes by one name only.

"A few years ago every group was coming to power by killing others, by bloodshed. Now after this election there will be a legal transfer of power."

Women's vote

As he spoke, hundreds of women were pouring into the separate ladies' voting section opposite.

Inside was an ocean of pale blue burqas, the front of them uncovered despite the presence of a male cameraman, reporter, translator and producer. This too, it became evident, was their day and they wanted everyone to see and hear it.

"We are all so delighted to be here," said Amina. "We're just so happy to be voting and to be choosing the president who will lead Afghanistan in the future."

On paper, the Kandahar women's vote won't make much difference to the national count.

Those who registered are a fraction of the national average. They number at best 200,000 and many will have been scared by Taleban intimidation.

However, the resolve of those who did vote was fortified by the post cards circulating in the polling centres - depicting images of the atrocities committed by the Taleban when it was in power: a 13-year-old Taleban recruit parading the severed hands of thieves, the destruction of the ancient statues of Bamiyan, the public beating of women.

The subliminal message: "Lest we forget..."

'Big picture'

The ink problems experienced around the country were a feature of voting in Kandahar.

I watched as a group of three men washed off the thumb markings in full views of us - we filmed them - 20 metres from the ballot boxes where they'd just dropped their papers.

Then they rejoined the queue of voters.

A flaw, agreed Mary Agnes, one of the few international observers watching procedures. But not so grave, she said, as to devalue the big picture.

The big picture is that in Kandahar, of all places in Afghanistan, people truly relished a right they've never enjoyed before - to exercise their own choice.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...sia/3730410.stm

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Probe into Afghan vote announced

The United Nations is to investigate alleged irregularities in Afghanistan's presidential election.

All allegations of voter fraud must be submitted in writing to the UN panel by 1430 GMT on Wednesday, organisers say.

The ruling means counting of ballots, which should have begun on Monday, cannot start until after that deadline.

One of President Karzai's main rivals, Yunus Qanuni, has vowed to accept the inquiry findings. It is alleged that ink to prevent multiple voting failed.

Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) says ballot boxes in areas where complaints have been made will be isolated and checked so that officials can start counting the rest of the votes.

International observers

The United Nations is jointly responsible for organising Afghanistan's first mass democratic election.

Its three-member panel will comprise a former Canadian diplomat, a Swedish election specialist and another person who is yet to be named.

They will examine all serious allegations of malpractice at the polls - not just complaints that indelible ink aimed at stopping multiple voting failed to work in many areas.

News of the ink problems on Saturday was swiftly followed by a boycott call from all of the candidates opposing interim President Hamid Karzai.

Tuesday's deadline for complaints to be lodged has resulted in a delay in the counting of ballots, although work is still being done by officials to ensure that the number of votes cast in different areas of the country tallies with the number of people eligible to vote.

The announcement of the inquiry follows demands by 15 candidates for a new poll, even though international observers have endorsed the vote.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) - which contributed to the 230 foreign monitors for the polls - acknowledged that there were some irregularities during the poll that should be investigated.

However, OSCE Ambassador Robert Barry said on Sunday "the candidates' demand to nullify the election is unjustified and would not do service to the people of Afghanistan who came out yesterday, at great personal risk, to vote".

Meanwhile, the Free and Fair Election Foundations of Afghanistan (Fefa) - the single largest observer group - said that "a fairly democratic environment has generally been observed in the overall majority of the polling centres".

But vote observers were deployed thinly around Afghanistan's 25,000 polling stations because of security fears, and a full monitoring operation was not attempted.

The UN, which helped organise the poll, has praised the "massive" turnout in the election.

More than 10 million people were registered to vote, many of them refugees living in Pakistan and Iran.

The ousted Taleban regime has dismissed the election as foreign-sponsored and has said it will continue its armed struggle.

However, fears that militants linked to the Taleban would carry out their threat to sabotage the vote appear to have been largely unfounded.

Ink stains

The vote was marred by reports that an ink used to stain voters' fingers to prevent them from casting their ballot more than once could be washed away.

This prompted all the candidates opposing interim President Hamid Karzai - the favourite to win the race - to call for the election result to be annulled.

However, several candidates appear set to drop calls for a vote boycott.

Their representatives told the BBC they would instead accept the findings of an independent inquiry into alleged irregularities.

Mohammed Mohaqeq, one of Mr Karzai's main rivals, was the first to announce he was withdrawing his backing for the boycott.

Mr Mohaqeq said he wanted a UN commission to investigate the election and he would accept its ruling on its legitimacy.

Other candidates are also withdrawing calls for a boycott in favour of a more conciliatory approach, according to the BBC's Andrew North in Kabul.

President Karzai criticised the move as an affront to the hopes of the millions of Afghans who braved bad weather and the threat of terrorism to turn out to vote.

He was adamant there would be no back-room deals to solve the row.

"If the Afghan people have voted for me, no horse-trading. The horse-trading times are over in Afghanistan," he told a news conference.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...sia/3733760.stm

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Afghan complaint deadline expires

The UN deadline for written complaints of irregularities in Afghanistan's presidential election has expired.

A three-member panel will now scrutinise the objections, which follow a row on voting day over alleged fraud.

Meanwhile ballot boxes are piling up in centres around the country for the count, set for Wednesday or Thursday.

In the north-east, a UN helicopter sent to collect votes has crash-landed in mountains, leaving the eight crew and officials on board stranded but unhurt.

All set for the count

The United Nations inquiry was set up after a boycott call on election day from most candidates opposing the favourite, Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun who has led the US-backed administration in Kabul since the overthrow of the Taleban three years ago.

Indelible ink to prevent multiple voting had failed to work in many areas, and voting was briefly suspended in certain polling stations although monitors later called the vote a success.

Since Saturday several main candidates have vowed to accept the results of the election and abide by the inquiry findings.

Principle among them is Yunus Qanuni, regarded as Mr Karzai's closest challenger.

He has promised to "respect the will of millions of Afghans" and work for unity.

There is also still a degree of confusion over the make-up of the UN inquiry team. The names of two of its members were given on Monday. A third has still to be announced.

The panel will look into all allegations of irregularities, not just problems with the ink.

At some polling stations agents for certain candidates were said to be telling people who to vote for.

Vote organisers say ballots from areas where there are complaints will be isolated for checking by the UN panel while the rest of the vote is counted.

"There are counting papers piling up and they are ready to be counted. We are just waiting for the green light," David Avery, the election commission's chief of operations, told the AFP news agency.

He said he expected counting to begin in the next day or two. Full results are not expected for two to three weeks.

Crash-landing

The helicopter crash in the Wakhan corridor area of Badakshan province near the borders with China, Tajikistan and Pakistan is the latest problem to hit the collection and counting of votes.

The Russian-made Mi-8 suffered engine failure, Mr Avery told the Associated Press.

The helicopter had not yet picked up any ballot boxes when it crash-landed in a snow-field.

The US military is air-dropping warm clothes and food to help the crew and officials survive freezing temperatures overnight and will attempt to rescue them on Wednesday.

Mr Avery conceded the incident would slow the recovery of ballots from the area.

More than 10 million people were registered to vote in Afghanistan's first mass democratic poll, many of them refugees living in Pakistan and Iran.

BBC correspondents reported huge enthusiasm for the vote across Afghanistan.

Threats by the Taleban to disrupt the election failed to materialise.

Afghanistan's hard-line former rulers said on Tuesday they had refrained from attacks to avoid Muslim bloodshed.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...sia/3735658.stm

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I like it how as usual for this type of thing that the people who were lauding the election are now nowhere to be seen now that its turned into a disaster , just like the american government. lol

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dont you watch the news??

oh i forgot the bbc are leftist liars doesnt matter.

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Just about every 4 years half our country claim we've had a disaster, this next one will be similar, I believe the Dems are planning massive vote fraud, but we're still... here... still the place dreams can come true.

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Warlord ends Afghan poll boycott

Another major rival to Afghanistan's interim president, Hamid Karzai, has pulled out of a boycott of last Saturday's election.

Warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum now says that he is instead supporting a United Nations investigation into complaints about the voting.

General Dostum was one of 15 candidates who called for the boycott.

It overshadowed what is widely viewed as being a hugely successful first election for Afghanistan.

Officials say the counting of ballots will not now begin before Thursday.

A UN-appointed investigation panel has given candidates another 48 hours to make complaints, extending the deadline until 1800 local time on 14 October.

But one of the members of the panel, Craig Jenness, indicated that it might be possible to start the count after isolating ballot boxes from polling stations mentioned in complaints received so far.

Last big challenger

The candidates called the boycott after problems emerged with indelible ink designed to prevent fraud.

But it started crumbling on Sunday.

The key moment was when Yunus Qanuni, the most important rival to President Karzai, backed down, saying he wanted a UN investigation into his concerns on polling day instead.

Two people have already been appointed to the UN investigation panel, and a third is currently being identified.

General Dostum, the veteran Uzbek strongman, is the last major challenger to Mr Karzai to come on board for the investigation.

But his spokesman says he will still make complaints about the way Saturday's vote was conducted, despite missing the initial deadline for doing so.

Since Saturday's election, candidates like General Dostum have been under intense pressure to abandon their boycott.

Negotiations have involved Western diplomats as well as Afghan figures.

But the BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says that many believe another factor in changing minds has been widespread anger among ordinary Afghans at what they see as candidates obstructing a popular process for short-term political gain.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, Craig Jenness said 43 complaints had been received from the 18 candidates so far, of which 37 had been reviewed.

Ballot boxes from 10 polling stations had been isolated as a result, he said.

'Democratic future'

Meanwhile, eight people who were stranded for 24 hours when a helicopter sent to pick up ballot boxes crashed in mountains in northern Badakhshan province have been rescued, the UN said.

Spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said the rescue helicopter would return later to pick up the boxes.

In Kabul, the head of US forces in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-General David Barno, has called the elections "the end of more than two decades of the rule of the gun".

"[The election] confirms the bright hope of all the Afghan people in a democratic future centred on the rule of law," he said.

However, General Barno said US troops would remain in the country for the foreseeable future.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...sia/3738662.stm

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