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Afghanistan votes to elect President today amidst violence

Voters in Afghanistan have to decide among 16 candidates, including incumbent President Ashraf Ghani. Figures by the Election Commission show that almost 9.6 million people have registered to vote in the presidential election.

Afghanistan votes to elect President today
Kabul, First Published Sep 28, 2019, 11:46 AM IST

Kabul: Afghanistan will vote to elect their next President today.

The polls will come following a bloody two-month election campaign that was marred by repeated attacks across the war-torn country.
The road to the polls has been anything but certain, as a series of talks between the United States and the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha, threatened to derail the entire process, reports Al Jazeera.

According to sources, parts of Afghanistan witnessed violence even as polling was underway. But the situation has been brought under control and polling continues. 

Blast hit a polling centre in Afghanistan southern Khandahar city. Casualties are feared, Xinhua reported citing an official. The blast comes hours into voting to elect next president of war-torn Afghanistan. This comes as the Taliban has threatened voters to stay away from the ongoing elections or face dire consequences. 

The constant questioning of the polls continued until US President Donald Trump sent out a series of angry tweets declaring the talks dead after a Taliban-claimed bombing that resulted in deaths of at least 14 Afghan civilians and a US soldier.

Those tweets came just 20 days before the Afghan election.

As candidates started to go from province to province and the airwaves filled up with campaign ads, the people's questions about the election went from "will there be an election" to "will you vote" and "for whom".

The Afghan voters have to decide among 16 candidates, including the incumbent President Ashraf Ghani.

Almost 445 polling centres out of 5,371 centres will be closed on the election day but the Ministry of Interior has assured that a safe environment will be provided to the voters, according to Tolo News.

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"I have a message for the Taliban: You should not prevent the people from their right. If you are Afghans, allow the people of Afghanistan to vote so that a strong government is created and then you can attend to the peace negotiations with that government," Chief of Army Staff Gen Bismillah Waziri said.

He added, "But it will not be possible if you want to hinder the process."

Figures by the Election Commission show that almost 9.6 million people have registered to vote in the presidential election. Addressing a press conference in Kabul on Friday, the Commission further assured the public that the election will be held transparently.

The voting will start at 7am (local time) and will end at 3 pm (local time), head of the commission, Hawa Alam Nuristani, said.

The New York Times reported that preliminary results of the elections are not expected to be announced until October 17 and final results until November 7.

"We cannot announce the final results at the end of the election day," Nuristani said, adding that at the end of the day, only the total number of voters will be announced.

"We are committed to providing a good environment for monitoring (the process on the election day)," head of the Election Commission's secretariat, Habib-Ur-Rahman, said.

He said that 144,146 national and international observers have been deployed for the election day.

Afghanistan's last presidential election, in 2014, was so stained by corruption, squabbling and fraud complaints that then-Secretary of State John Kerry stepped in to mediate a strained political marriage between the two top candidates, Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah -- the leading candidates in this vote, as well.

Last October, parliamentary elections descended into chaos amid shouting matches and cries of ballot-stuffing and political payoffs. 

(With inputs from ANI)

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