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Afghanistan casts fear aside to cast election votes

In an unprecedented incident, Afghans turnout in droves on Saturday April 5 to cast their votes and choose Hamid Karzai’s successor

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Published: Updated:

In an unprecedented incident, Afghans turnout in droves on Saturday April 5 to cast their votes and choose Hamid Karzai’s successor through the ballot box. In spite of the Taliban’s threats that they would disrupt the election, people cast their fears aside to cast their votes and voice their rejection of the Taliban and the violence the country is going through.

A few scattered attacks were reported on Election Day, especially in eastern parts of Afghanistan. There were casualties, but no major attack was orchestrated.

Certainly, this election turned out to be the best election in Afghanistan’s modern history.

In cold rainy Kabul, the voters stood in line for hours until closing time, waiting for ballot papers to arrive so they could cast their vote – a process that had been finished by mid-day in many towns and provinces.

The election is over but challenges lie ahead, such as counting the votes and monitoring the process

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

The shortage of ballot papers has been reported in many cities such as Kabul, Heart, Mazar-e Sharif and Ghondoz and became one of the main issues during this election. But in general, the presidential elections, as well as the elections for choosing provincial council members, was a triumph for the nation. It is, after all, a nation which still suffers from terrorism, corruption and insurgencies.

The 2009 election disappointed voters and other candidates when a huge fraud case was reported, causing millions of ballots to be thrown out. Being sensitive about fraud during this election, many local observers volunteered to monitor the tallying process.

The future

The election is over but challenges lie ahead, such as counting the votes and monitoring the process. It’s a long road ahead and issues such as the safety of ballots coming in from remote areas must also be tackled.

Considering the absence of international observers who fled Afghanistan after a series of attacks against foreigners in recent weeks, international observers warned that the vote counting process must be closely watched.

Among the eight running presidential candidates, it seems that three of them are ahead of the others: Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Zalmai Rasoul. It’s possible that the election could go into the second round if none of these secures a major proportion of the total votes.

If the election goes into a runoff, it cannot take place sooner than end of May. The preparation for the April 5 election cost the United Nations and foreign donors $100 million. For the election, 350,000 Afghan police and military backed up by 35,000 NATO coalition troops were deployed to provide the security across the country. The same sort of preparation and investment would be needed for a second run.

Stuck in a rut?

During the last days of the election race, a report came out saying that certain candidates were aligning and trying to convince the others to drop out in favor of key candidates. Although such bids were unsuccessful, the alignment along sectarian lines shows that ethnicity and tribes play a huge role in choosing the next president.

However, the wishes for peace and stability encouraged a huge proportion of the population to come out on Saturday and it is questionable whether such excitement will once again be visible if the elections were to run into a second round.

When you talk to the average Afghan citizen, they say they are tired of instability and insecurity but are they ready to put ethnicity and race behind them?

The next president has a lot to deal with in before he can get to the corruption and drug issue. Such urgent matters include the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States which allows the U.S. to keep some of its troops inside Afghanistan after its withdrawal by the end of 2014. Fighting the Taliban or finalizing peace talks with them is another big challenge for the next president.

The future president already bears many demands upon his shoulders. It will take a week or more for the final result to be announced and a few more days to complete all the complaints from the candidates. The people of Afghanistan and the world need to be patience for another few weeks in order to find out who will lead the country in the coming years.

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Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.