Afghanistan runs out of ballot papers

Afghanistan runs out of ballot papers

Afgha­nistan’s landmark presidential election on Saturday was marred by a shortage of ballot papers that left many voters still queuing to cast their votes with polling due to close, as the organisers appeared unprepared for a high turnout.

The independent election commission ordered voting to be extended by at least an hour, with ballot papers being dispatched where they were needed for people to vote for a successor to President Hamid Karzai.

Organisers of the vote–meant to be the first democratic handover of power in Afghanistan’s history–had feared that a low turnout and Taliban violence would derail the election but as polling stations began to close, those fears had not materialised.
In Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold, ballot papers had run out at the majority of polling stations. “They thought the turnout would be similar to the past and that's why they sent fewer voting materials this time,” said Toryalai Wesa, governor of Kandahar.
In capital Kabul, many polling stations decided to extend voting hours way beyond the official closing time of 4pm local time.

In the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood of Kabul, hundreds of men and women stood outside one polling station, with many impatient voters saying they had been waiting in the rain for most of the day.

“I have waited here for hours, but was not allowed inside to vote because there is no ballot paper,” said Hassan, as others nodded in agreement.

“This is a deprivation of my right and I am unhappy at not being able to take part in this historic process,” he added.

Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, chairman of the election commission, said: “The report we have so far indicates that many people participated in these elections and in some stations we ran out of ballot papers. We have already sent some ballots to those stations which we had reserved in provinces.”

Of the eight candidates, the three frontrunners to succeed Karzai–who is barred by the constitution from contesting–are former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmay Rassoul, and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani.

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