Voter turnout in Afghanistan's legislative elections was just over 50 percent, down 20 percent from last fall's presidential election. Sunday's elections are hailed as a major success although initial estimates suggested voter turnout was lower than hoped for because of security fears and frustrations over the inclusion of several warlords on the ballot. Reports from 35 percent of the polling stations suggest that voter turnout was just over 50 percent, Peter Erben, the chief electoral official, said Monday. Turnout was 70 percent in the election last October that installed Hamid Karzai to a five-year term as president, according to Herald Tribune.
Security fears no doubt affected the turnout. Some eligible voters also said they did not want to vote for warlord candidates.
Many people found the election too confusing, as most candidates had no declared political ties. It was the country's first legislative election in more than 30 years, BBC says.
Ballot boxes are being taken to counting centers by truck, helicopter and donkey. Counting is to begin Tuesday, with results expected at least two weeks later.
The Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan, or FEFA, which fielded more than 7,000 observers around the country, listed a large number of security incidents and election violations, including serious cases of intimidation, but said that it did not affect the overall election.
Despite scattered reports of shootings and attempted sabotage that left five people dead on Sunday and two police officers dead on the eve of the election, the vast bulk of the voting went remarkably smoothly, polling officials and international observers said. While there were numerous accounts of voter intimidation and tussling among supporters of rival candidates, officials dismissed them as relatively innocuous, considering this is a country that has withstood so many years of bitter conflict and warlordism.
The strength and substance of the elected Parliament will be an important test of Afghanistan's still-fragile transition to peace. The parliamentary elections, nearly a year after presidential elections last October, had been clouded in recent weeks by a spate of guerrilla attacks against the Afghan government and its American backers, Science Daily reports.
The involvement of former warlords was a source of great debate in the prelude to the vote. At a women's polling center in Kabul, Rahima, 40, said she did not believe former warlords would secure much support. "I don't think they will win," she said. "Even small boys know who they are." President Hamid Karzai said he hoped the Parliament would provide a strong focus for democracy in the country, even if a majority of deputies opposed him.
Security was tight as workers brought ballots from far-flung polling stations to provincial capitals so that counting could begin Tuesday, The Associated Press reported. Provisional results are expected by early October.