KABUL (Reuters) – Afghans unable to vote in Saturday's parliamentary elections after hundreds of polling stations failed to open were given another chance on Sunday after voting time despite security threats and fraud warnings.
Afghan women cast their vote in parliamentary elections at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 20, 201
About three million Afghans voted Saturday, electoral officials said, but there were complaints across the country about it the polling stations remained closed, often because the employees did not appear.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan made a statement in which it said it was encouraged by the high number of voters on Saturday, many of whom suffered long delays due to technical and organizational issues.
"Those eligible to vote, who for technical reasons were unable to vote, deserve the right to vote," it said.
The Sunday extension was carried out for 401 polling stations and 500 additional posts. Officials were deployed.
Many independent election observers, who were considered to be an important control over efforts to manipulate the outcome, were unwilling to work for fear of militant attacks.
"It's not an ideal scenario," said a foreign security official, noting the additional pressure exerted on already tense security forces on alert after the Taliban warned that they would vote.
Over 120 hand grenade or improvised explosive incidents were reported on Saturday and dozens of people were killed or injured across the country. In one incident, 15 people were killed by a suicide bomber attempting to enter a polling station in Kabul, but overall, the violence was not as bad as some officials feared.
Parliament's House of Commons vote is considered a test ahead of next year's more important presidential election, but the march was hampered by chaotic preparations, allegations of fraud and threats of militant violence.
Nearly 9 million voters have been registered, but many, up to 50 percent or more, according to some estimates, may have been fraudulently recorded.
More than one million people voted in the capital, Kabul, but voter turnout was very low in the provinces, said Naeem Ayubzada, director of the Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan, a civic body that oversees the vote.
He said the decision to extend the vote, which occurred unexpectedly when complaints came on Saturday, opened the door to abuse, with half-filled ballot boxes left open all night in some polling stations.
"From a planning point of view, it is very difficult," he said. "It offers an opportunity for fraud."
The result of the election will not be known for at least two weeks due to the difficulty of counting and comparing the results.
In addition, the election in Kandahar province was delayed by a week after the assassination of the powerful local police commander, General Abdul Razeq. The elections in the central province of Ghazni were postponed because of disagreements over the representation of various ethnic groups.
Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore