[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 9 October, 2004, 21:22 GMT 22:22 UK
Afghan vote ends in controversy
Kandahar voter
A voter in Kandahar awaits her turn to cast her ballot
Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election has passed off peacefully, but ended in controversy as opposition candidates called for a boycott.

The move followed claims of voting irregularities.

Interim President Hamid Karzai - who is expected to win - said the result should be respected and praised Afghans for participating "massively".

He urged everyone to await the verdict on the voting process by the joint UN-Afghan Election Commission.

The dispute centres on the supposedly indelible ink that had been dabbed on to voters' thumbs to show they voted. Many voters were able to wipe the ink off.

I don't trust these elections - I voted an hour ago but, as you can see, there is no trace of the ink on my fingers
Khwaja Malang
Tajik voter from Panjshir

Despite the wrangling among the candidates, BBC correspondents around Afghanistan have reported great levels of enthusiasm among ordinary people for the democratic process.

Mr Karzai - who has led the country since the fall of the hard-line Islamic Taleban in 2001 - bluntly dismissed the candidates' complaints.

"Who is more important, these 15 candidates or the millions of people who turned out today to vote?" he asked journalists in Kabul.

'Safe and orderly'

Mr Karzai said all the candidates "should respect our people, because in the dust and snow and rain, they waited for hours and hours to vote".

Voters queue outside Kabul polling station
There were queues before polling stations opened in Kabul
Earlier a senior United Nations official helping supervise the vote said that "overall it has been safe and orderly".

"The vote will continue because halting the vote at this stage is unjustified and would deny these people their right to vote," Ray Kennedy said.

Security was the leading concern in the run-up to the election, with up to 100,000 Afghan and international security personnel on high alert.

Taleban militants had threatened to disrupt the poll.

Fifteen of the 18 candidates signed up to the boycott.

The Associated Press reported the only woman candidate, Masooda Jalal, as saying: "The ink that is being used can be rubbed off in a minute. Voters can vote 10 times."

The extent of potential fraud remains to be seen, but correspondents say the row has provided a convenient rallying point for a previously disunited opposition.


President Karzai is widely tipped to win, although Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum and Tajik former education minister Yunus Qanuni have fought high-profile campaigns.

The first vote was cast by an Afghan refugee in neighbouring Pakistan, where voting opened slightly earlier.

"I am very happy," said 19-year-old Moqadasa Sidiqi, after she voted in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Voting was extended in some areas to cope with demand.

The sealed ballot boxes are now due to be transported to eight regional counting centres.

Initial results are expected in the coming days but it may take a couple of weeks for all the votes to be counted.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific