For a second time since the beginning of the NATO-led invasion in 2001, Afghans headed to the polls to elect a parliament. The government says the election was a success despite Taliban attacks.
Over 12 million Afghans were registered to vote on Saturday
Afghans headed to polls on Saturday in the country's second democratic election since NATO's 2001 invasion. The Afghan government said that the elections were a success, despite Taliban attacks on various polling stations.
"Despite the heightened threats and despite utmost efforts which were put in place to prevent the Afghan people from going to polling stations...the elections were held in a nearly normal situation throughout the country," Waheed Omar, chief spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, told reporters.
Some 40 percent of the electorate were thought to have taken part in the vote
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle condemned the election day violence and praised the courage of Afghan voters. "I can only praise with the most complete respect this courage, given the very difficult circumstances of the poll," he said on Saturday evening.
Westerwelle said that although it was too early to give a verdict on the validity of the election process, there was evidence "that these polls were carried out better than many people feared they would be."
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen pledged that the military alliance would continue to support Afghanistan and its newly elected parliament.
"NATO will continue its engagement on behalf of Afghanistan, as the people and government create a secure future for themselves and one that will also bolster international security," Rasmussen said.
A series of attacks at polling stations throughout the country killed at least 11 civilians. The Taliban said on their website after polls closed that they had conducted more than 150 attacks. But, overall, there were fewer attacks than during the presidential elections last year and many were foiled.
Afghan security forces worked in tandem with NATO troops, among them around 4,000 German forces to combat the Taliban "promise" that it would use violence to impede the election.
Thousands of Afghan security forces defended polling stations on Saturday
Around 92 percent of the country's polling stations were open for voting on Saturday, Ahmad Manawi, head of the Independent Election Commission, said. The rest were in areas considered too dangerous to hold a vote in, particularly in the south of the country, where the Taliban are based.
Stressing that it was not a final figure, Manawi said 3,642,444 votes had been cast at 4,632 polling centers.
"This makes 40 percent of the maximum number of voters," he said.
Final results are not expected before the end of October. Around 12.5 million people are voting to appoint 249 parliamentarians in an election that is seen as a crucial measure of Afghanistan's push for democracy in the face of the country's growing insurgent threat.
Author: Gabriel Borrud, Nicole Goebel (Reuters/dpa/AFP)
Editor: Ben Knight