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Last Updated: Monday, 19 September 2005, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Sharp drop in Afghan poll turnout
Election workers move ballot boxes in Kabul
Final election results are expected in late October
Turnout in Afghanistan's parliamentary and provincial elections on Sunday was more than 20 points down on last year's presidential poll, officials say.

Just over 50% of registered voters cast their ballots, officials have told the BBC.

A number of reasons for the drop are being given. Many voters said they did not want to vote for candidates they regarded as warlords.

There was also evidence many people found the elections too confusing.

Only a few of the candidates declared any political ties, which observers say made it hard for voters to make an informed choice between candidates.

QUICK GUIDE

The parliamentary elections were the first in the country for more than 30 years.

President Hamid Karzai, one of the early voters, said Sunday was a good day for Afghanistan, whatever the election results.

He said he hoped the parliament will provide a strong focus for democracy in the country, even if a majority of deputies oppose him.

Ballot boxes are now being transported to counting stations by truck, donkey and helicopter.

The government says the counting of ballots will begin on Tuesday, with final results due in late October.

'Compares well'

Election officials told the BBC that about six million people voted on Sunday out of about 12.5 million registered voters.

We're building our country, we're making our parliament
Mohammed Twahir
Voter in Kandahar

But, because officials believe there were many multiple registrations, turnout is being estimated at just over 50 percent.

Chief electoral officer Peter Erben said the turnout figure compared well with other post-war countries.

"Afghanistan should be satisfied with the turnout in yesterday's election," he told a news conference in Kabul.

The elections were part of an international plan to restore democracy after US-led forces overthrew the Taleban in 2001.

There were 5,800 candidates nationwide for the two elections.

Thousands of foreign and Afghan security forces were on high alert after a campaign marred by violence.

Six people including a French soldier were killed in attacks by insurgents on election day.

Little impact

In the capital, Kabul, and some surrounding areas, the queues were much shorter than for the presidential election 11 months ago.

VOTE FACTS
2,800 parliamentary candidates
3,000 candidates for 34 provincial councils
249 seats in lower house or Wolesi Jirga
About 25% of seats reserved for women
160,000 vote officials, 26,000 polling stations
Final result due 22 October

Reports from Kandahar in the south say women voted in large numbers. BBC reporters in Jalalabad say more women than men voted there.

But correspondents say it was not the sporadic violence that appeared to have deterred voters.

Attacks by militants, mostly in southern and eastern rural areas, have been largely blamed on supporters of the former Taleban regime who opposed the election.

Organising the voting posed the bigger challenge.

Poor transport links and inhospitable terrain presented huge problems.

Women vote in Afghanistan
Women turned out to vote in large numbers in some areas
Illiteracy was also a factor and there were fears many people found it difficult to choose candidates by their picture and symbol.

In Kabul, voters had to work their way through a seven-page ballot paper with almost 400 candidates for the parliament alone.

More than 1,000 people, including seven election candidates, have been killed in militant-linked violence in the past six months - the worst bloodshed since US-led forces ousted the Taleban in 2001.

But officials said the peaceful conduct of the polls was a victory over the militants.

"After all their boasting, it's a big failure for the Taleban," interior ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal was quoted as saying.




BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the ballots being collected



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