KABUL: The United States praised millions of Afghan voters who defied Taliban threats and attacks to vote in a presidential run-off election securing the country’s first democratic transfer of power, with counting set to begin on Sunday.
With turnout higher than expected after a largely peaceful day of voting, Washington hailed the polls as a “significant step” for the country’s democracy, commending “the voters, electoral bodies and security forces for their commitment to the democratic process.”
“These elections are a significant step forward on Afghanistan’s democratic path, and the courage and resolve of the Afghan people to make their voices heard is a testament to the importance of these elections to securing Afghanistan’s future,” the White House said.
Ahead of the ballot, which decides the next president of the country ahead of the withdrawal of North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops later this year, the Taliban had threatened to kill voters and officials, saying the election was an American plot “to impose their stooges.”
Polling day saw no major attacks in cities, but there were at least 150 minor attacks—including a Taliban rocket that hit a house near a polling station, killing five members of the same family.
Eleven voters in the western province of Herat had their fingers—which were dipped in ink to register their ballot—cut off by insurgents, Deputy Interior Minister Ayoub Salangi said on his Twitter account.
The polls result, due out next month, will confirm whether former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah or ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani will lead Afghanistan into a new era of declining international military and civilian assistance.
The two candidates came top of an eight-man field in the April first-round election, triggering the run-off as neither reached the 50 percent threshold needed for outright victory.