Dozens killed as Afghans vote in run-off poll; turnout 52 per cent
More than seven million people voted in the Afghan presidential election run-off, a turnout of 52 per cent based on an estimated electorate of 13.5 million voters and nearly 50 people have been killed in attacks nationwide.
"The estimated turnout was more than seven million in the second round, 38 per cent women and 62 per cent men," election commission chief Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani said.
Interior Minister Mohammad Umar Daudzai said dozens of people were killed, including 20 civilians, 15 soldiers and 11 policemen, but the overall voting was largely peaceful. The Taliban had called for "non-stop" attacks on election day "so that the enemy is paralysed and this process is aborted".
The run-off pitted former anti-Taliban fighter Abdullah Abdullah against ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani after neither secured the 50 per cent majority needed to win outright in the first round on April 5.
While violence spiked on the day, the high-profile attacks that had been feared did not materialise. Voting ended at 4pm with a palpable sense of relief in the capital, Kabul.
"I'm from this country so I am never afraid of threats," said Lajiullah Azizi, a hospital worker who voted in western Kabul just minutes after a small bomb exploded at his polling station. "I hope this election will bring peace."
Officials immediately began counting ballots, although Afghanistan's difficult terrain, where ballot boxes have to hauled by donkey from some of its remotest corners, means preliminary results will not be known until July 2.
President Hamid Karzai, who is standing down after 12 years in power marked by increasingly sour relations with the West, is certain to retain a hand in politics but has been tight-lipped about his plans.
"Today Afghanistan takes a step towards stability, development and peace. Come out and determine your destiny," Karzai said after casting his ballot.