Afghans turn out for historic elections, with 'uncoordinated' attacks reported

9 October 2004

Refugees from Afghanistan living in camps and residents of the war-torn nation cast their ballots today in an historic presidential poll amid sporadic violence that officials said was unsystematic.

“Preliminary indications are that a good number of voters are going to the polling stations,” UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters in Kabul. “As of nine o'clock this morning, we only have reports of one polling station that did not open and that is in Nuristan, as a result of flooding.”

Among refugees, the first Afghan to vote in Islamabad was 19-year old Muqadasa Sidiqi.

But reports of violence marred the milestone election. Ministry of Defence Spokesman General Zaher Azimi reported that four people were injured during an attack on Afghan National Army forces outside of Kabul. He also cited reports of an attack in Farah province.

But he stressed that “the voting is going on as normal and people are going to the voting stations and voting for the candidate they like.”

Ministry of Interior Spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said there were “some minor attacks on polling stations” overnight “but no casualties are reported as of yet.”

He described the violence as “uncoordinated, hit and run or indirect attacks” and praised the cooperation between Afghan and international security forces.

The Joint Afghan-UN board overseeing the process issued a statement in response to allegations of irregularities by a number of candidates who are calling for the election to be halted and for the votes already cast to be invalidated.

“Given the complexities of this electoral process, there have inevitably been some technical problems,” the board, known as JEMB, said. But it emphasized that “halting the voting at this point is unjustified and would deny these individuals their fundamental right to vote.”

The statement reassured voters, candidates, and observers that procedures exist to respond to complaints. “All complaints and irregularities raised with the JEMB will be thoroughly investigated and taken into account when the JEMB deliberates on the extent to which the election accurately reflects the will of the Afghan people.”

The Board encouraged all Afghans to vote and, “above all, to maintain the peaceful environment that has prevailed today throughout the country.”


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