The PJ Tatler

Afghans Defy Taliban, Show Up in Droves to Vote

Saturday’s presidential election was an awesome success for Afghanistan: about 60 percent of the 12 million eligible voters stood in long lines to pick President Hamid Karzai’s successor. Problems seen at some voting stations were due to sheer demand, such as running out of paper ballots and long lines that election officials had to close off at the appointed time of 4 p.m. The Independent Election Commission said about 65 percent of the voters were male and 35 percent female, and this ratio was certainly reflected in the images Afghans were tweeting from all around the country.

The Taliban made a bit of mischief, but nowhere near what they promised — shutting down the entire process — or claimed (1,000 attacks). To add injury to insult, Afghan forces killed a senior Taliban commander, Qari Ziaduddin, in Faryab province Sunday night.

Complaints have been filed against every candidate, but election observers said the vote was nothing like the 2009 ballot-stuffing bonanza. Candidates are making claims based on their exit polling and other estimates but partial results will not be released until later this week and preliminary results are due April 24, reports Tolo News. Multiple televised presidential debates helped stoke voter fervor and increased knowledge about the candidates.

If one of the eight candidates does not clear 50 percent, it will go to a runoff. It’s shaping up to be a heat between Abdullah Abdullah, former foreign minister turned Karzai opponent, and Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank official who once hired James Carville as a campaign consultant.

“The open and responsible debate among the candidates over the past two months, and the turnout for these elections, demonstrates to the world that the Afghan people want to determine their own future,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. “The Afghan National Security Forces should be commended for providing the security which enabled these elections to take place.”

“The Afghan people secured this election. They ran this election, and most importantly, they voted in this election,” Secretary of State John Kerry said.

President Obama praised the vote as “keeping with the spirited and positive debate among candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the election.”

But the most important statements — with their words and with their feet — came directly from Afghans: