by Tony Cross
Article published on the 2009-08-22 Latest update 2009-08-23 09:02 TU
A disabled election worker at Qala-e-Fatullah polling station, Kabul - many Afghans have lost limbs in decades of war
(Photo: Tony Cross/RFI)
Daoud Ali Janefi of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on Friday told RFI that turnout would be about the same as the 51 per cent in 2005’s legislative elections, although lower than the 70 per cent in the 2004 presidential election.
But all observers agree that the numbers of voters in the capital was lower and reports from the south of the country, which is in the grip of Taliban insurgency, indicate extremely low participation.
One foreign analyst, cited by the AFP news agency, said that turnout in the former Taliban capital Kandahar may have been as low as 10 per cent, while others claim that in Helmand, also in the south, the proportion of voters was only slightly higher.
If the commission announces a turnout which lacks credibility, that could add to the discontent of supporters of incumbent Hamid Karzai’s principal challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.
They are already furious that the Karzai camp has claimed victory and could be tempted to take to the streets to contest a result which gave the outgoing president over 50 per cent, making a second round unnecessary.
But Abdullah has already denied that he wants his supporters to take to the streets, according to Saeed Niazi, the Director of the Civil Society Development Centre in Kabul. "We hope that Dr. Abdullah will come from political ways, from legal ways, to solve his problem, not with violence," he told RFI.
In Washington the US President was upbeat about the poll.
"This was an important step forward in the Afghan people's efforts to take control of their future, even as violent extremists are trying to stand in their way," Obama said.
The IEC says that premliminary results will be announced on Tuesday, with definitive results coming months later.