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Vote Counting Under Way in Afghan Presidential Runoff

by VOA News June 15, 2014

Vote counting is under way in Afghanistan where voters chose a new president in a runoff election between candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani.

Official preliminary results are not expected until July 2.

Turnout for Saturday's election was high, despite the Taliban's threat to disrupt the vote with violence. The Interior Ministry reported 150 attacks, including roadside bombs and rocket firing. Among dozens of people reported to have been killed by militants, the worst attack blew up a bus killing 11 people, including several election worked returning home from the polls.

Election officials said Sunday that 7 million Afghans voted, which would be similar to the first round on April 5, and a turnout of about 60 percent of eligible voters.

Hours after the polls closed, officials in the rural Herat province said Taliban militants had cut off the fingers of at least 11 people who voted. Afghan voters have their index fingers dipped in ink to ensure that they vote only once.

The White House praised Afghan voters for their 'courage and resolve'' and called the elections a 'significant step' for Afghan democracy.

The International Security Assistance Force commended the Afghan troops, saying the successful election 'clearly demonstrates' Afghans' confidence in the security provided by their own forces.

Both presidential candidates have pledged to maintain a close military relationship with the United States. That would allow nearly 10,000 American troops to remain in the country for two more years to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training and advising the Afghan army and police.

Both candidates served in the Cabinet of President Hamid Karzai, who has led the country following the toppling of the Taliban government at the end of 2001.

'My message to the people of Afghanistan is that today is your day, today is our day and today is Afghanistan's day and a better future is waiting for them, a better prosperous life is waiting for them, peaceful life is waiting for them,' said presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah.

'This time it is a clear choice between two leaders with different visions, different experience, two teams, committed to different ideals,' said Ashraf Ghani.

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