World Bulletin/News Desk
The voting process in the second round of Afghanistan's presidential election has ended with less voters having turned out compared to the first round.
“The voting has concluded at 4 p.m local time all over the country,” Noor Mohammad Noor, the spokesman for Afghan Independent Election Commission, told Anadolu Agency, despite not giving information about the voter turnout.
In the capital, Kabul, many Afghans rushed to vote till the end of the voting, but long queues of people were not witnessed unlike the first round.
The runoff is between the former foreign minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank official and former finance minister Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, who were the top two candidates at the end of the first round on April 5.
According to the interior ministry, there had been 150 minor attacks by the Taliban across the country on Saturday.
From windswept deserts on the Iranian border to the remote, rugged Hindu Kush mountains, 12 million voted amid tight security at 6,365 polling centres.
People have turned out in large numbers, his rival, Abdullah, told reporters. "Security is a concern but the people of Afghanistan have defied security threats so far," he said.
"The country is in a crisis ... Only a strong leader can rescue it," said Shukria Barakzai, a female member of parliament.
"Everyone - young, old, rich and poor - came out in unpleasant weather, despite threats, to vote in April and we hope it will be the same this time. This is Afghanistan's spirit," she said.
"This time the Taliban will try to compensate for what they couldn't achieve in the first round of the election," said Defence Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi.
The high turnout of nearly 60 percent in the first round was seen as a major defeat for the Taliban. Observers expect fewer than 5 million voters this time, partly because of concern about security.
Officials in Kabul are haunted by the prospect of a close outcome that could furnish the losing candidate and his supporters with an excuse to reject defeat, and, in the worst scenario, propel the country back into war along ethnic lines.
Both candidates set the stage for complaints with repeated attacks on electoral organisers, accusing them of incompetence and bias.
"Some of the teams openly played ethnic politics and that is not good for the country," said Habibi Aminullah, former campaign manager to Qayum Karzai, the president's brother, who was a candidate in the first round.
"I hope the election ends at a point in which no violence takes place. I hope the international community helps the country."
The United Nations has appealed to candidates to refrain from attacking the organisers to safeguard the process.
"There's a short-term gain only in trying to undermine or bully the institutions at the expense of their legitimacy," said United Nations deputy chief Nicholas Haysom.
"It's going to be the legitimacy of the elections which will give legitimacy to the new head."
Abdullah polled 14 percentage points ahead of Ghani in the first round with 45 percent of the vote, but Ghani, who is ethnic Pashtun, stands to gain a portion of the Pashtun vote that was splintered in the first round.
Pashtuns are Afghanistan's biggest ethnic group, making up about 45 percent of the population.
Abdullah is partly Pashtun but is identified more with the ethnic Tajik minority.
The chances of an equal split between candidates are hard to gauge because there are few reliable polls. ACSOR research centre, asking respondents to choose between Abdullah and Ghani, predicted a 50:50 split shortly before the first round.
A more recent survey by Glevum Associates indicates that Ghani may have overtaken Abdullah, predicting 49:42 in Ghani's favour.Last Mod: 14 Haziran 2014, 16:10