Nearly 50 per cent turnout in Afghan elections; 26 killed in election-related violence; Obama, NATO Secretary General among others congratulate the Afghan authorities and people; Opposition candidates charge that electoral malpractices have taken place
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  • Reports noted that 40-50 percent of the country's 15 million registered voters cast their votes in the Afghan presidential elections on August 20. The voter turnout was however far lower than the 70 percent registered during the 2004 elections. Despite concerns over security and other difficulties, over 95 per cent of the voting centres were open to the public. At least 26 people lost their lives in elections-related violence1.

    President Obama congratulated the Afghan authorities and voters for their active participation in the electoral process. Obama stated that the election was an "important step forward" for the Afghan people, after decades of violence and instability2. The UN Security Council, expressing satisfaction at the process, also criticized "the actions of those who sought to deny the voice of the Afghan people." NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on his part acknowledged the role played by the Afghan security forces3.

    Reports of fraud and irregularities in the electoral process also surfaced. Presidential candidate Dr. Abdullah Abdullah alleged “brazen” irregularities and warned that the “glaring violations” could affect the verdict4. Candidates also warned of ballot-box stuffing, lack of impartiality among election workers and instances of voters casting ballots for others5.

    Meanwhile, President Obama on August 17, addressing a gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, defended the decision to increase American troop presence in Afghanistan. Stating the US was involved in “a war of necessity”, he warned that the al-Qaeda was still plotting to attack the US6.