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Afghanistan - elections

Security tight on voting day

Article published on the 2009-08-20 Latest update 2009-08-21 09:11 TU

Afghan President Hamid Karzai casts his vote in Kabul(Photo: Reuters)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai casts his vote in Kabul
(Photo: Reuters)

Security is tight security across Afghanistan for the elections on Thursday. President Hamid Karzai was one of the first to cast his ballot in Kabul. He hopes to win a second term in power. National council elections are also being held.

Karzai voted in a boys' high school near the heavily fortified presidential palace, and called for a strong turn-out.

"I ask the Afghan people to come and vote, so through their vote, Afghanistan will be more peaceful, more secure and a better place," said Karzai.

"God willing this will be for the peace, for progress and for the well-being of Afghanistan."

However, RFI’s reporter in Kabul, Tony Cross, said turnout had been slow in the early hours of voting, adding that security around some polling stations is “unbelievably heavy”.

“Driving to the polling station we were stopped every two or three minutes by police looking inside the car.

“To get into the polling station everything had to be sniffed by dogs and we had to be personally searched. It is really quite an intimidating atmosphere for the voters.”

Voting at Steqlal High School, Kabul, 20 August 2009
(Photo: RFI/Tony Cross)

Voting at Steqlal High School, Kabul, 20 August 2009
(Photo: RFI/Tony Cross)

Voters who agreed to express their preference were split between incumbent Hamid Karzai, and his main opponent, former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah.

Mohammad Mustapha, a printer from the Hazara ethnic group, voted for the President to be returned to office.

‘‘He’s a good person because in the seven years of his presidency he has done a lot for young people, for education and other aspects as well,’’ he said.

But student Ashir Ahmad supported Abdullah.

‘‘Mr Karzai has promised a lot of things but he hasn’t fulfilled his promises,’’ he said.

‘‘Mr Karzai changed the education system from a government system to private sector and we have a lot of private schools in Afghanistan. We are sure that Dr Abdullah will take action to change that back to a very good system of education.’’

There have been widespread fears that Taliban attacks, following a series of threats to derail polling day, could put voters off from voting in the presidential and provincial council elections.

Two explosions have been reported in Kabul with no injuries and there are also media claims of several rocket attacks in other parts of the country.

On Wednesday, three US soldiers were killed in attacks in the south of the country, taking the death toll for international troops in Afghanistan to 50 so far for August.

News of the latest casualties follows the release of a new survey in the US showing the American public to be opposed to sending more troops to Afghanistan.

According to the Washington Post-ABC News poll, 51 per cent of those questioned said the war was not worth fighting while 47 percent endorsed the mission. In July, a narrow majority backed the war as worthwhile.

Only 24 per cent said more US forces should be deployed, while 27 per cent said the troop levels should be kept the same and 45 per cent said the troop commitment should be reduced.

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