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afghanistan elections 2014


Afghanistan’s presidential contenders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have signed a deal to form a government of national unity at a ceremony in Kabul.

The signing – broadcast live on national TV – comes after months of wrangling following presidential elections in April and June.

Under the deal, Ashraf Ghani becomes president while runner-up Abdullah Abdullah nominates a CEO with powers similar to those of prime minister.

Both sides had accused the other of fraud following the election.

The final result of the bitterly contested poll is due to be announced later.

Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah signed the agreement at a ceremony inside the presidential palace in the capital, Kabul. They then stood and embraced each other.

The power-sharing deal was finally reached after a comprehensive audit of all eight million votes which began in July.

The agreement says the new CEO will be answerable to Ashraf Ghani, although he has lost a battle to be sworn in after the announcement of the election result.

Instead, the two men have signed the national unity agreement before the election result is announced.

The new chief executive – nominated by Abdullah Abdullah – will be side-by-side with the president when he is inaugurated.

Presidential contenders Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have signed a deal to form a government of national unity in Afghanistan

Presidential contenders Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have signed a deal to form a government of national unity in Afghanistan (photo Reuters)

Abdullah Abdullah will be able to appoint senior positions on terms of “parity” with Ashraf Ghani. The agreement says “the two teams will be equally represented at the leadership level”.

However, there will not be a one-for-one handout of jobs further down and that could lead to arguments.

The agreement calls for a spirit of partnership. But after a bitter election campaign and months of wrangling, the stability of this government cannot be guaranteed, he adds.

A spokesman for Ashraf Ghani said that there was no longer any dispute between the two sides.

“Both camps have agreed 100% on everything and we’ll sign the deal tomorrow,” Faizullah Zaki told Reuters on Saturday, September 20.

The audit of ballots was part of a deal brokered in July by Secretary of State John Kerry to try to avert a descent into violence.

Both candidates pledged to accept the audit results and form a unity government.

One of the new president’s first tasks is widely expected to be signing a bilateral security agreement with the US.

The deal will allow a small force of soldiers to remain beyond 2014 to train Afghan security forces.

Incumbent President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the security agreement, which is linked to the continuation of aid needed to pay Afghan civil servants, teachers and soldiers.

Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have both promised to sign the agreement.

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Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani has called for an “extensive audit” of votes.

Ashraf Ghani made the appeal before meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived in Kabul to try to resolve a growing political crisis.

John Kerry is also meeting Ashraf Ghani’s rival Abdullah Abdullah.

Ashraf Ghani came out ahead in preliminary results from the second round, but both candidates allege fraud.

The audit would help ensure the “integrity and the legitimacy that the people of Afghanistan and the world will believe in,” Ashraf Ghani said.

The announcement was welcomed by John Kerry, who arrived in Afghanistan on Friday in a hastily arranged visit.

Ashraf Ghani came out ahead in preliminary results from the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election

Ashraf Ghani came out ahead in preliminary results from the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election (photo CNN)

“No one is declaring victory at this time. The results have yet to be finalized and so those questions have to be resolved and I’m very appreciative that Dr. Ghani respects that” he said.

Current President Hamid Karzai, who took power after the US-led overthrow of the Taliban, is stepping down after more than 10 years.

The US has been concerned at reports that Abdullah Abdullah, who preliminary results suggest lost the election, is planning a “parallel government”.

Results announced by Afghanistan’s election officials give Ashraf Ghani 56.44% of votes in the June 14 run-off, with Abdullah Abdullah gaining 43.45%.

The results were markedly different from those achieved in the first round of voting, held in April.

In that round, Abdullah Abdullah fell just short of an outright majority, with 44.9%, with Ashraf Ghani second at 31.5%.

Votes are already being re-checked at more than 7,000 polling stations – nearly a third of the total number.

Correspondents say recounts could significantly alter the final result, due on July 22.

The UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan has warned it will be “premature” for either side to claim victory.

There are also concerns about a further deterioration in the security situation.

Taliban militants have been testing the limits of the Afghan army in recent weeks, with a major offensive in the southern province of Helmand.

The withdrawal of foreign troops by the end of this year will be the litmus test of whether more than a decade of training and investment in building up Afghanistan’s own security forces has paid off, correspondents say.

President Barack Obama has said the US remained committed to Afghanistan provided the incoming president signed a security agreement.

Both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have said they are committed to signing the deal with the US that would allow a small force to stay on.

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Abdullah Abdullah has claimed victory in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential race, despite results giving a lead to his rival, Ashraf Ghani.

Addressing supporters in Kabul, Abdullah Abdullah repeated claims that the election process was marred by fraud.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had earlier warned against a power grab, amid reports that Dr. Abdullah Abdullah was planning a “parallel government”.

Meanwhile, a bomb near Kabul has killed 16 people, including four NATO troops.

Ten civilians and two police officers were also reportedly killed in the attack on a clinic near Bagram, home to the largest US base in the country.

Abdullah Abdullah has claimed victory in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential race, despite results giving a lead to his rival, Ashraf Ghani

Abdullah Abdullah has claimed victory in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential race, despite results giving a lead to his rival, Ashraf Ghani (photo Reuters)

Abdullah Abdullah told the gathering in Kabul that he would never “accept a fraudulent government”.

“We are the winners of this round of elections, without any doubt,” he said, to cheers from the crowd.

However, Abdullah Abdullah stopped short of declaring a parallel government as his supporters had earlier suggested he might. Instead, he called for a unified country.

“We don’t want civil war, we don’t want a crisis,” he said.

“We want stability, national unity, not division.”

Preliminary results announced on Monday gave Ashraf Ghani 56.44% of votes in the June 14 run-off.

Abdullah Abdullah, who fell just short of an outright majority in the first round, had 43.56%.

Both of them have alleged fraud in the election. Votes are being re-checked at nearly a third of polling stations – more than 7,000.

Correspondents say recounts could significantly alter the final result, due on July 22.

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Ashraf Ghani is leading the Afghan presidential race, according to preliminary results.

The former finance minister won 56.44% of votes cast in the June 14 second round, the Afghan election commission said.

Ashraf Ghani is leading the Afghan presidential race after preliminary results

Ashraf Ghani is leading the Afghan presidential race after preliminary results

Ashraf Ghani’s opponent Abdullah Abdullah had 43.56%, the commission said.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah led after the first round and has alleged widespread fraud in the run-off. Votes are being re-checked at thousands of polling stations.

The vote comes during a critical year for Afghanistan. Most foreign troops are due to withdraw by the end of 2014.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah pulled out of Afghanistan’s 2009 presidential election which was also marred by claims of mass fraud.

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Senior Afghan election official Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail at the centre of fraud claims in the presidential run-off vote has resigned.

Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail said he was stepping down “for the sake of national unity”, denying allegations of ballot box-stuffing earlier this month.

His resignation comes after audio tapes were released allegedly revealing that Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail was trying to influence the outcome of the vote.

They were published by the camp of one of the candidates – Abdullah Abdullah.

However, Abdullah Abdullah’s rival Ashraf Ghani has also made allegations of fraud.

Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail’s resignation comes after audio tapes were released allegedly revealing that he was trying to influence the outcome of the vote

Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail’s resignation comes after audio tapes were released allegedly revealing that he was trying to influence the outcome of the vote

The official results of the June 14 run-off are yet to be published.

In a dramatic turn of events on Monday, Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail tendered his resignation on national television.

He vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying he had been the victim of a plot.

Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail also described the tapes as “fake” and blamed the country’s security services for interfering in the election.

In an apparent reference to ballot box-stuffing, the tapes appear to show Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail urging a colleague to “bring the sheep stuffed and not empty”.

The reference to sheep and goats – ballot boxes and people or votes – is made several times during the recorded exchanges.

Reacting to the latest developments, Abdullah Abdullah said the resignation of Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail had opened the door for discussions with Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission.

Abdullah Abdullah also said his recent decision to stop co-operating with the election authorities had not been intended to disrupt the process, but to prevent a fraudulent election result and to protect people’s votes.

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Explosive audio tapes released in Afghanistan allegedly reveal a senior election official directing that ballot boxes be stuffed in the crucial presidential run-off.

The recordings, which cannot be independently verified, are believed to have come from the security services.

They have been placed in the public domain by the Abdullah Abdullah camp who refuse to disclose their source.

Fraud allegations have been made by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and by his rival Ashraf Ghani.

The audio tapes appear to reveal a partisan senior election official working in Dr. Ashraf Ghani’s interest.

However, the former World Bank executive’s team say secret recordings without a court order are illegal and must be investigated.

Audio tapes released in Afghanistan allegedly reveal a senior election official directing that ballot boxes be stuffed in the crucial presidential run-off

Audio tapes released in Afghanistan allegedly reveal a senior election official directing that ballot boxes be stuffed in the crucial presidential run-off

The audio tapes appear to capture conversations between a senior election official, Zia Ul-Haq Amarkhail, and colleagues in at least four other provinces.

In an apparent reference to ballot box stuffing, the tapes appear to show Zia Ul-Haq Amarkhail urging a colleague to “bring the sheep stuffed and not empty”. The reference to sheep and goats – ballot boxes and people or votes – is made several times during the recorded exchanges.

In a separate conversation, the senior official also apparently deals with concerns from a colleague in one of the north-western provinces, who warns that “others make the majority in our office”.

Zia Ul-Haq Amarkhail apparently responds to him with the words “why don’t you get rid of them, take a stick and kick them all out” and goes on to suggest new officials are recruited from ethnic groups, assumed to back Ashraf Ghani.

Many awkward questions still surround the release of tapes, copies of which have now been handed to the presidency and the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

The UN, which is being urged by Abdullah Abdullah to step in and help arbitrate disputes, has also been made aware of their existence.

In a statement, the UN said the Afghan election authorities should consider the “validity, weight and implications” of the tapes and “take action in line with the principles of accountability”.

It wants the Afghans to sort out their own problems but do so in a “transparent” manner.

For the past week the IEC has been under pressure to suspend Zia Ul-Haq Amarkhail pending an investigation.

An altercation between him and a senior police official on election day, after the police chief had become suspicious of his movements, was aired on Afghan TV.

Since then the cries for him to be relieved of his duties have grown louder, but so far the election body has resisted taking any action.

The election authorities simply stated that his “privacy” was protected by the constitution when asked for a comment about the tapes.

Many questions arise from these audio recordings. How were they obtained, why are they being released now and will they be admissible as “evidence” of alleged fraud?

The Abdullah Abdullah camp has tossed this explosive material into the public domain but the presidential hopeful himself has been away from the media spotlight – in sharp contrast to his public appearances earlier this week.

He has suspended his co-operation with the election authorities, a position the UN has described as “regrettable” and says he will not recognize any result they release.

More demonstrators from Abdullah Abdullah’s camp have been out on the streets of Kabul on Sunday.

Many say they are there to “protect their vote” from fraud.

Both sides have lodged complaints about the conduct of these elections and for Abdullah Abdullah, who felt he was robbed of the presidency back in 2009, there is a sense that history is repeating itself.

Afghanistan’s presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has demanded an immediate halt to vote-counting over allegations of widespread fraud.

Ballot boxes had been stuffed and the whole system was working to benefit his rival Ashraf Ghani, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said.

He said he had lost trust in election officials, adding: “We have asked our monitors to leave their offices.”

A run-off vote to choose who replaces Hamid Karzai was held on Saturday. Final results are due in July.

Abdullah Abdullah won most votes in the first round in April, but did not secure an outright majority.

There was no immediate comment from Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist.

Afghanistan’s presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has demanded an immediate halt to vote-counting over allegations of widespread fraud

Afghanistan’s presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has demanded an immediate halt to vote-counting over allegations of widespread fraud

Hamid Karzai, who has served two terms as Afghanistan’s first and only president since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, is obliged by law to stand down after the latest election, which would be the country’s first peaceful transfer of power.

He is expected to hand over to his successor in August.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah said that a number of his observers had been beaten up, detained and only released on Tuesday.

He accused President Hamid Karzai of not being neutral and said important concerns he had raised over the election had been ignored.

Abdullah Abdullah also complained that there had been no clarification over what he had called inflated turnout figures – and no explanation for the sacking of several thousand election workers after the first round.

He added that he had also demanded that a senior member of the Independent Election Commission should be suspended, but this had not happened.

“The counting process should stop immediately and if that continues, it will have no legitimacy,” Dr. Abdullah Abdullah told reporters.

Ballot boxes have yet to reach Kabul for votes to be counted but the former foreign minister said preliminary evidence gathered by his team showed widespread fraud.

According to initial reports received by his staff, Ashraf Ghani is leading by nearly a million votes after Saturday’s run-off, Reuters news agency reported.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah pulled out of Afghanistan’s 2009 presidential election which was also marred by claims of mass fraud.

UN and US officials have been urging both contenders in this year’s race to give officials time to count votes and look into possible malpractice.

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Voters in Afghanistan are deciding who will succeed President Hamid Karzai after run-off polls.

The choice was between former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani.

The head of the election commission said turnout was good and most polling stations had opened but admitted some places had run out of ballot papers.

The Taliban threatened to target voting, and there are concerns that fraud could produce a disputed result.

Leading candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have campaigned relentlessly ahead of Afghanistan presidential election’s second round

Leading candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have campaigned relentlessly ahead of Afghanistan presidential election’s second round

It should be the first time that power in Afghanistan has been democratically transferred.

As most foreign soldiers prepare to withdraw by the end of this year, whoever becomes the new leader faces multiple challenges.

Taliban insurgents remain active, the economy is weak, corruption is endemic and the rule of law goes largely unenforced.

About 12 million Afghans are eligible to vote. Polls closed at 16:00 local time but officials said those in line at that time could still vote.

The election commission said 6,204 polling centres had opened, but about 160 remained closed because of security threats.

Abdullah Abdullah won 45% of the first-round vote, with Ashraf Ghani securing 31.6% – neither achieved the 50% needed to avoid a second round.

Both sides have faced multiple claims of fraud.

Correspondents say that a seamless transfer of power would be a significant achievement for Afghanistan and a vindication of international efforts to establish a functioning democracy after the abuses of the Taliban era.

But Afghanistan’s mountainous and remote terrain, coupled with the dilapidated condition of many of its roads, mean that holding a country-wide election is a major challenge. Thousands of donkeys will be deployed to carry ballot boxes to some of the more inaccessible villages.

The preliminary result is expected on July 2 and the final result on July 22.

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Afghanistan presidential election preliminary results show the poll will go to a second round, after no candidate reached the 50% needed for an outright win.

Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah won most votes with 44.9%. Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani came second with 31.5%.

They are now expected to face a run-off vote on May 28.

Final official results are due to be announced on May 14 after a period for adjudication of complaints.

Full preliminary results were due two days ago.

Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are now expected to face a run-off vote on May 28

Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani are now expected to face a run-off vote on May 28 (photo Reuters)

The delay has fuelled allegations on all sides that ballot boxes were stuffed and the count was rigged, our correspondent says.

Power-sharing scotched

Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani could now form a power-sharing deal, or choose to go to a second round.

Before the results were announced, both men promised to fight in a run-off.

“We have not talked or negotiated with anyone about forming a coalition government,” Abdullah Abdullah told reporters on Thursday.

Millions of Afghans defied Taliban threats to take part in the election.

Turnout was double that of the previous presidential election in 2009, despite a number of attacks in the run-up and bad weather on polling day.

Afghanistan’s current President Hamid Karzai was constitutionally barred from standing for a third term.

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Afghanistan’s former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is slightly ahead of Ashraf Ghani in the country’s presidential election, partial results have shown.

With about 500,000 votes in 26 provinces counted, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has 41.9% with Ashraf Ghani on 37.6%.

Some seven million votes were cast in total across Afghanistan’s 34 provinces in the April 5 poll.

Full preliminary results are due by April 24. A runoff will take place in May if no candidate gets a majority.

The Independent Election Commission has warned that the front-runner could easily change as counting continues in the coming days.

Afghanistan’s former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is slightly ahead of Ashraf Ghani in the country's presidential election

Afghanistan’s former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is slightly ahead of Ashraf Ghani in the country’s presidential election

“Maybe today one candidate looks strong. Tomorrow, maybe another will pull ahead,” commission chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said.

The results will now emerge every day, and some ballot boxes have yet to arrive in Kabul from remote places travelling by donkey.

Abdullah Abdullah’s team has exhibited quiet confidence since the election.

The partial results gave another main contender and former Foreign Minister, Zalmai Rassoul, who is believed to be President Hamid Karzai’s preferred successor, 9.8% of the vote.

Possible electoral fraud has been a concern, but the election body responsible for dealing with complaints says it will be weeks before it rules on the issue.

There were allegations of large-scale fraud when Hamid Karzai was re-elected in 2009 – Dr. Abdullah Abdullah came second in that poll.

The Election Complaints Commission said there appeared to have been less fraud in this election.

“We have received 1,892 complaints with evidence, (including) 1,382 through phone,” spokesman Nader Mohseni said on Sunday.

He said 870 fell into the most serious category.

There were also fears that Taliban violence could disrupt the election, but millions turned out despite threats and several high-profile attacks in the run-up to election day.

The vote heralds the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan.

The next president will have to contend with a range of difficult issues, including continuing Taliban violence and how Afghanistan adapts after the withdrawal of foreign combat forces this year.

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More than 7 million people out of an estimated eligible 12 million voted in Afghanistan’s election for a new president, the country’s electoral commission says.

It is Afghanistan’s first transfer of power via the ballot box.

There are reports of ballot paper shortages and sporadic violence from across the country.

Eight candidates are seeking to succeed President Hamid Karzai, barred by the constitution from seeking a third term.

Hamid Karzai has declared Saturday’s poll “a success”. Final results may not be declared for days.

A massive operation was launched to thwart the Taliban, who had vowed to disrupt the election, and heavy rainfall may have depressed turnout in some areas.

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said its latest estimates were that more than seven million people had voted by 17:00 local time, when the polls had officially closed and counting began.

Two-thirds of those who voted were men and one third women, the commission believes. Some polling stations stayed open until 21:00 to allow everyone queuing to vote.

“This election was a message to the enemies of Afghanistan,” Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said.

More than 7 million people out of an estimated eligible 12 million voted in Afghanistan's election for a new president

More than 7 million people out of an estimated eligible 12 million voted in Afghanistan’s election for a new president

“With this determination of the honorable people of Afghanistan, the enemies were defeated.”

IEC secretary Ziaul Haq Amarkhel, asked to comment on widespread reports of polling stations running out of ballot papers, said this information was “false”.

Earlier there were reports of polling centers running out of ballots hours before the polls closed in many areas, including Kabul, northern Takhar province, north-eastern Badakhshan province, eastern Paktia province, and Nimroz province in the south-west – where one man, Abdul Ahad, said he and 15 family members had been to every polling centre in their district in an attempt to vote, but all of them had run out of ballot papers.

The biggest military operation since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 was rolled out for the vote. All 400,000 of Afghanistan’s police and soldiers were said to be on duty for the election.

Traffic was prevented from entering the Afghan capital from midday on Friday, with police checkpoints erected at every junction.

However, in parts of the capital voters could be seen queuing an hour before polls opened and there was a good-natured, almost carnival atmosphere, with many people on the streets.

Across the country, 10% of stations were declared unsafe to open by the election commission.

The Afghan ministry of defense said three major incidents had taken place on polling day.

Fears of fraud, which have marred previous polls in Afghanistan, resurfaced with reports from the southern province of Kandahar that police were preventing voters and observers from reaching polling stations.

The interior ministry said two police officers were arrested in Wardak province for stuffing ballot boxes.

Concerns were also raised before the poll about the possible presence of “ghost” polling stations as well as the fact that the number of election cards in circulation appeared to be vastly more than the number of registered voters.

Speaking after the polls closed, Hamid Karzai said: “Despite the cold and rainy weather and possible terrorist attack, our sisters and brothers nationwide took in this election and their participation is a step forward and it is a success for Afghanistan.”

President Barack Obama, in a statement issued by the White House, said: “We commend the Afghan people, security forces, and elections officials on the turnout for today’s vote – which is in keeping with the spirited and positive debate among candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the election.

“These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support.”

There are eight candidates for president, but three are considered frontrunners – former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmai Rassoul, and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has fought a polished campaign, Ashraf Ghani has strong support among the new urban youth vote and Dr. Zalmai Rassoul is believed to be favored by Hamid Karzai.

However, no candidate is expected to secure more than the 50% of the vote needed to be the outright winner, which means there is likely to be a second round run-off on May 28.

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Afghanistan is voting for a new president in what will be the nation’s first ever transfer of power through the ballot box.

A massive security operation is under way to thwart the Taliban which has vowed to disrupt the election.

Eight candidates are vying to succeed Hamid Karzai, who is barred by the constitution from seeking a third consecutive term as president.

The poll has already been overshadowed by the shooting of two journalists.

Award-winning German photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed and veteran Canadian reporter Kathy Gannon was injured when a police commander opened fire on their car in the eastern town of Khost on Friday. They had both worked for Associated Press for many years.

It was the latest in a string of deadly attacks that marred the lead-up to the election.

The biggest military operation since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 has been rolled out for the vote. All 400,000 of Afghanistan’s police and soldiers were said to be on duty for the election.

Afghanistan is voting for a new president in what will be the nation's first ever transfer of power through the ballot box

Afghanistan is voting for a new president in what will be the nation’s first ever transfer of power through the ballot box

In parts of the capital voters could be seen queuing an hour before polls opened.

However, some polling stations in the provinces of Herat in the west and Kapisa, north-east of Kabul, were closed because of a combination of the bad weather and security risks. There were also reports elsewhere of several polling centers not receiving ballot materials in time.

Independent Election Commission chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani urged all Afghans to vote, as he cast his ballot live on television.

Traffic was prevented from entering the Afghan capital from midday on Friday, with police checkpoints erected at every junction.

International observers are increasingly optimistic that both the tight security and a number of new guarantees against fraud will make this a fairer election than Afghanistan has seen before.

Afghans have been barred from sending text messages until polls close at 16:00 on Saturday to prevent the service from being used for last-minute campaigning.

But there are still concerns about ballot stuffing and ghost polling stations as well as the fact that the number of election cards in circulation appears to be vastly more than the number of registered voters.

On Saturday the interior ministry said two police were arrested in Wardak province for stuffing ballot boxes.

There are eight candidates for president, but three are considered frontrunners – former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmai Rassoul, and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

Dr. Abdullah Abdullah has fought a polished campaign, Dr. Ashraf Ghani has strong support among the new urban youth vote and Dr. Zalmai Rassoul is believed to favored by Hamid Karzai.

However, no candidate is expected to secure more than the 50% of the vote needed to be the outright winner, which means there is likely to be a second round run-off on May 28.

A poll conducted by the Free and Fair Election Foundation found that more than 75% respondents planned to vote, even though faith in the electoral process was said to be decreasing.

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The headquarters of the Afghan election commission in Kabul have been attacked by insurgents, a week before the presidential election, police say.

Gunmen have entered a nearby building and are firing at the election commission with automatic weapons.

The attack comes a week before presidential elections which the Taliban have vowed to disrupt.

Insurgents attacked the headquarters of the Afghan election commission in Kabul

Insurgents attacked the headquarters of the Afghan election commission in Kabul (photo AP)

It comes a day after a major attack on a building housing foreign aid workers in the Afghan capital.

A police officer quoted by Associated Press news agency says the assailants have not entered the heavily secured compound of the International Election Commission and are based in a house about 500 m away.

The insurgents are attacking the commission headquarters with assault rifles and some heavier weapons.

The commission is on a specially built site on a main road out of the centre of Kabul to the east, he adds. It is not yet clear if there are any casualties.

“We heard two explosions inside the IEC compound, the sound of firing is still ongoing, but people are safe and are in (reinforced) safe rooms,” IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor tells AFP news agency.

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