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Afghan vote turnout 'very good': election authority

world Updated: Aug 20, 2009 15:21 IST

AFP
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Afghanistan's election authority said turnout in Thursday's presidential and provincial polls was "very good" half way through voting on Thursday and predicted it could reach around 50 percent.

Some 95 percent of 6,500 polling stations opened although 312 centres had remained closed, Independent Election Commission official Zekria Barakzai said. He did not say why the centres did not open.

"The turnout is very good, but we don't have exact figures," said Barakzai, deputy chief electoral officer.

"We managed to open 95 percent of the 6,500 polling centres. We have 6,185 open, 312 closed," he said, adding that he'd had no word on the status of a further 16.

The commission said initially it planned to open nearly 7,000 polling centres but later warned as few as 6,200 could open because of poor security.

The Taliban threatened to attack the polls and authorities reported several small attacks across the country, including a Kabul gunbattle and some directed at polling stations, but voting appeared to proceed smoothly.

But a Western diplomat said his indications were that 50 percent was rather high with reports of turnout particularly poor in the south.

Fears of attacks have stoked fears that weak turnout could threaten the credibility of the elections.
Turnout in Afghanistan's first presidential election, which was won by Hamid Karzai who is now seeking re-election, was around 70 percent.