Afghanistan extends polling time by one hour

Kabul, April 5: Polling time in the Afghan presidential and provincial council elections Saturday has been extended by an hour to help facilitate people to cast their votes, the country’s top election official said.

“The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has decided to extend the voting time for one hour until 5 p.m. because many people had not been able to cast their votes due to late arrival of election officers in some remote areas,” IEC Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said.

Nouristani also said that polling time could be extended even after 5 p.m. depending on the number of voters at the centres.

The move came as many voters complained in Kabul, western Herat province and several other centres in different places about shortage of ballot papers and other election material.

“I have visited three election centres in western Kabul. But still I failed to vote. I put myself in danger on a rainy day but I could not cast my vote. I am afraid of losing my right of franchise during this election,” Kabul resident Mohammad Naqib told Xinhua.

Candidate agents and voters had earlier demanded that the IEC extend the voting time and requested early shifting of ballot papers so that the people could cast their votes.

Allegations of fraud and voter intimidation were also reported from some polling centres.

Polling opened at 7 a.m. and was supposed to close at 4 p.m.

Afghans began voting Saturday to elect a new president for the next five years in the country’s first democratic transfer of power through polling.

More than 12 million eligible voters, 35 percent of them women, are expected to cast their ballots.

The number of presidential candidates has dropped to eight after the withdrawal of three contenders from the race, and those running for the council seats in 34 provinces across the country exceed 2,700.

The provincial runners, including 380 women, will vie for 458 seats in the provincial councils or assemblies, including 96 seats for women.

The leading presidential candidates are former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zulmai Rassoul as well as former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

Presidential election complaint period is from April 7 to April 27. The preliminary results will come out on April 24 and the final result will be announced in mid May.

IANS