The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 6, 2014

Afghan election hailed as Taliban threat remains

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghans and the international community hailed its presidential election as a triumph of democracy over violence Sunday, despite complaints about ballot shortages and sporadic fraud after millions of people braved a Taliban threat to vote for a new president. But some cautioned against declaring a premature defeat of the Islamic militants.

Securing the vote was a test for Afghan government forces as they prepare to take full responsibility for their own security as the U.S. and allied forces end their combat mission at the end of this year. The consensus was that they largely passed, though there was sporadic violence.

A roadside bomb hit a pickup truck transporting ballot boxes Sunday in the northern province of Kunduz, killing three people, officials said. But the major attacks that had been feared did not materialize.

"This in itself is a victory over violence and a victory over all those who wanted to deter democracy by threats and violence," said Thijs Berman, the head of the European Union's election assessment team in Kabul.

Electoral officials, meanwhile, urged patience, saying officials continued to log complaints and tally ballots. The ballots were coming from more than 20,000 polling stations nationwide, some in extremely remote and rural areas. They were being transported to tally centers in all 34 provinces before the results reach Kabul.

Some candidate forecasts and partial results are expected in the coming days. Noor Mohammad Noor, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, said preliminary results were due April 24 and final results will be announced May 14.

With a crowded field of eight candidates, nobody was expected to get the majority needed to win outright. That would force a runoff between the top two vote-getters, which would be held at the end of May. President Hamid Karzai was constitutionally banned from seeking a third term.

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