Afghans Turn Out in Droves for Historic Elections

ABC News
Afghans Turn Out in Droves for Historic Elections

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Afghans Turn Out in Droves for Historic Elections (ABC News)

Afghans headed to the polls in droves today in elections that are expected to lead to the nation's first transfer of power between democratically-elected governments, despite calls for violence by the Taliban and a massive show of force by Afghanistan's security forces.

More than 350,000 soldiers and police guarded polling places in Afghanistan's presidential and provincial elections as Afghans fanned out across the country to cast their ballots.

All indications are that today's turnout will be historic. So many people showed up to some polling places that they ran out of ballots; Afghanistan's election commission also extended voting by an hour as 200,000 observers were expected to monitor voting.

ABC News' Muhammad Lila and Aleem Agha are on the ground in Kabul.

READ MORE: 5 Reasons the Afghanistan Election Really Matters

The largest turnout for elections in Afghan history was expected. It's the first time since the fall of the Taliban that Afghanistan President Muhammad Karzai's name hasn't appeared on the ballot. Eight candidates are competing to replace him.

89yr old Payvand Ali. Can't see in one eye. Says wants to see peace in #Afghanistan with the other. #afelex

- Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) April 5, 2014

There has been far less violence today than had been expected. No major attacks took place in the country's big cities, although there were a handful of skirmishes and firefights in restive areas.

PIC: Men smile for the camera as they line up to vote. Lineups in Kabul still long despite rain/threats of violence

- Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) April 5, 2014

Voters dip a finger in ink to show that they've voted - and to prevent people from casting more than one ballot.

Woman dips finger in ink as proof she voted. In other words, giving the finger to the bad guys.

- Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) April 5, 2014

PIC: Afghan man gives me the finger. On a day like this, entirely appropriate #AfghanElection2014

- Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) April 5, 2014

After votes are cast, the individually bar-coded ballots will be counted at each polling station and then sent to Kabul where they'll be counted again.

After the count there will be a period for people to submit complaints, and a resolution process that follows. The winner has to get 50 percent or more of the vote. If that doesn't happen in the first round, it goes to a second round. It may be weeks before a winner is declared.

PIC: Fav pic of the day. Much rather see blue ink on fingers than blood. #AFG already seen enough red #Afelex

- Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) April 5, 2014

Ballots were running low at some polling stations, where there were larger-than-expected turnouts. Kids flooded the empty streets to play sports, while some even joined their parents.

PIC: One of many children brought to a polling station. Democracy begins young #AfghanElection2014

- Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) April 5, 2014

Fears of fraud remained high, though. Some of the candidates, particularly Dr. Abdullah who lost to Karzai in 2009, have been warning of large-scale fraud.

There will likely be accusations of vote-rigging, which can delay the results process even further. It means the vote certification process will become just as important as the election itself.

PIC: Ballots are bar-coded, boxes are simple with plastic ties. Army of 200K partisan observers watching for fraud.

- Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) April 5, 2014

PIC: Female election official stands guard over ballot boxes. No massive reports of fraud - yet #Afelex

- Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) April 5, 2014

There are few American observers left in the country, but one of the last observers, Glenn Cowan, said that the vote is pivotal towards defining Afghanistan's future.

"The future of Afghanistan can go in two courses: It can plunge back into the era of the Taliban and into a darkness that afflicted the population of this country, or it can go forward in a progressive way," said Cowan. " A progressive Afghanistan leads to stability in South Asia."

ABC News' Aleem Agha took part in the election, too.

Casted my own vote

- Aleem Agha (@Aghaaleem) April 5, 2014

He was joined by others despite the rainy weather.

People queuing in rain to cast their votes # Afghan Election

- Aleem Agha (@Aghaaleem) April 5, 2014

Security check post Kabul heavy rain but good security

- Aleem Agha (@Aghaaleem) April 5, 2014

Big queue of women too this morning outside pooling station # afghan election

- Aleem Agha (@Aghaaleem) April 5, 2014

READ MORE: Afghans Flock to Polls to Vote for New Leader

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