UK & World News

  • 5 April 2014, 8:24

Afghanistan Goes To The Polls In Historic Vote

An historic day for Afghanistan - an election to decide a new president and for the first time in the country's history there is to be a democratic transition of power.

Just how long the process will take is the key.

As polling stations opened, across the country 12 million people are eligible to vote, although in some of the most insecure areas, like Helmand, where threats from the Taliban are highest the turnout will likely be small.

One vote over 50% would put a new man in office in the first round, although many suspect it will likely go to a second round of two candidates in May.

Despite threats from the Taliban to attack anyone taking part, there have been huge numbers at rallies for the next would be leader.

Ashraf Ghani, ex-finance minister and recognised honest broker, was greeted with near hysteria as he closed his campaign in the capital.

He is part of the past for sure but he has worked hard on the youth and women vote and also, controversially, joined up with the former warlord, Abdul Rashid Dostum, to bring in crucial votes from Afghanistan's northern regions.

"This hand is clean of blood and this hand is clean of corruption," he said, symbolically raising his arms.

He added: "I do have a youth agenda as chancellor of the Kabul university, I'm the only one who has engaged with the youth, and as you've seen I've thanked them for accepting me in their ranks."

Abdullah Abdullah, former foreign minister then de-facto leader of the opposition to President Karzai, who beat him to the top job last time round, says he is confident of winning.

But as he finished his campaign in a low-key late-night press conference at his heavily guarded Kabul home, he warned of the potential for fraud and interference from the departing president.

He said: "There is no doubt there are those concerns and that's why I'm emphasising a lot on the institutions and on the government of Afghanistan, and also on the public to be aware of this and the importance of this.

"That will be a recipe for disaster not only for the international community but first and foremost for the people of Afghanistan."

He added that he expects to win in the first round if there is no ballot stuffing like there was in 2009.

The whole election takes place in the midst of huge security concerns.

Hundreds of thousands of police and army are on duty across the country, while tens of thousands of election monitors and party workers are watching for violence and fraud.

A big day for Afghanistan as the world watches on.