Nearly 60% of Afghanistan’s populace turned out to vote in presidential elections held this past Saturday in Afghanistan. The effort has been described as courageous and indicative of a strong desire to move Afghan society forward, as 7 of Afghanistan’s 12 million voted despite threats of violent retribution from Taliban militants. Due to the country’s terrain and still poor infrastructure, the results of the election aren’t expected to be known for another six to eight weeks, though for the moment the greater than expected turnout has both internal and external analysts cautiously optimistic about what the future may hold, even despite sporadic violence on election day. Indeed, reports emerged of Taliban attacks on police and polling stations, with two reported dead and another 14 wounded. Afghanistan’s security service also announced that an additional 14 Taliban were killed in fire fights with police and security services.
The way that that Afghanistan’s presidential elections are decided differs from those of most western democracies, as the winner most win over 50% of the vote in order to avoid a runoff, irrespective of the number of candidates. Given the fact that there are eight presidential candidates, the possibility of a runoff is high, though frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah is expected to prevail, and having garnered additional support after announcing Mohammed Mohaqiq would join him on his presidential ticket.
Efforts to ensure partiality and fairness in the election were highlighted by an unprecedented move to block all texting services throughout the country. The Afghan Telecommunications Ministry “disabled all SMS services” upon request from an Afghan election committee that sought to prevent last-minute campaigning. Previously, both Abudllah Abudllah and his closest rival, Zalmai Rasul, had faced allegations of using unfair campaigning practices such as mass text messages to encourage hundreds of thousands of Afghans to vote for them. The
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