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Elections mark 'good day for Afghanistan': EU

world Updated: Aug 20, 2009 22:59 IST

AFP
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The European Union's special representative to Afghanistan said on Thursday's presidential election marked "a good day" for the war-ravaged country, with less violence than expected.

Despite concerns that the threat of Taliban violence would keep voters away from the polls, attacks and casualties had been low and the number of voting centres had equalled that of the last election in 2005, said Ettore Sequi.

"Our assessment is that in general these elections went much better than we anticipated," Sequi told AFP.

"There were 6,200 polling centres which is the same, certainly no less than in 2005, which is an achievement considering the concerns before the election," he said, referring to fears that Taliban activity could cut polling centre figures below that for the last nationwide polls.

While initial perceptions were that turnout in areas where the Taliban is most active could be significantly lower that in the relatively stable north, Sequi said that even in unstable areas people had voted.

Referring to a multi-pronged Taliban attack in the northern province of Baghlan, which left up to 30 insurgents dead, Sequi said "when the time came for the centres' opening time to be extended, people showed up. This is significant."

"It means Afghan people do want elections," he said.

Election officials said they were hoping for 50 percent turnout, but Sequi said it was too early to pre-empt official figures, which are not expected for days.

"In general our assessment is that it is an emerging process," Sequi said, adding: "It is a good day for Afghanistan, especially if we compare the day with our concerns before we went into the elections."

"The important thing is that now we are entering a new stage, and we hope and expect that the maturity of the campaign will be demonstrated in the aftermath of the election," he said.