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Kabul Blasts Fail To Scare Voters From Presidential Polls


Afghan workers unload election material for the June 14, 2014 presidential runoff vote.
Afghan voters were forming long lines at polling stations in Kabul for the June 14 presidential election runoff, despite reports of three explosions on the north side of the Afghan capital and one on the west side just before polls opened.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi confirmed that at least one rocket landed to the south of Kabul's international airport.

He also confirmed the explosion of what he described as a "magnetic bomb" in western Kabul, just before voters began to cast their ballots across Afghanistan.

But Siddiqi said there were no casualties and the blasts had not interrupted the work of election officials.

He did not comment on the proximity of the explosions to any polling stations.

The Taliban has threatened to attack voters on June 14, warning in a statement that Afghans should “remain far away from the polling stations… lest you should be hurt or killed.”

Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is facing off against ex-World Bank economist and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani in a vote that will determine who replaces the outgoing President Hamid Karzai.

The results are expected to be announced on July 22.

Karzai, after casting his ballot at the Amani High School polling station outside of the presidential palace in Kabul, told reporters that the election shows that Afghanistan is taking a “strong step towards stability and peace.”

Referring to the planned withdrawal of U.S. and NATO-led forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Karzai said Afghans are taking control of their “own destiny” and bringing an “an end to the need for foreigners.”

The outgoing president said: “The gathering of people at polling stations and the voting will lead the country towards better stability, better governance, and a better life.”

Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, the head of the Afghan Independent Election Commission sought to reassure voters and observers that the organizers will ensure that the electoral process will deliver a legitimate winner.

After casting his ballot in Kabul, Nurstani said his commission has no tolerance for fraud and will submit the names of election staff to legal authorities if they are suspected of favoring any candidate.

Abdullah is considered the frontrunner after leading in the first round of the election, conducted on April 5, with 45 percent of the vote.
Ghani finished second in the April 5 ballot with 31.6 percent of the vote.

A total of 50 percent or more was needed for a single candidate to win the presidency in the first round.

Whoever wins the most votes in the June 14 runoff vote will be declared as Afghanistan's next president, with a term set for five years.

Under Afghanistan's post-Taliban constitution, nobody can be elected to the presidency for more than two five-year terms.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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