More than 7 million voters in Afghanistan cast ballots in the April 5 presidential election, according to the nation’s Independent Election Commission.
Eight candidates sought to succeed Hamid Karzai, raising the likelihood of a runoff election.
“As many as 12 million Afghans at home and 8 million living abroad were eligible to vote on April 5. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of ballots — a scenario the head of U.S. forces in the country views as probable — a runoff between the top two vote-getters would take place around the end of May,” Bloomberg’s Eltaf Najafizada reported.
“My vote today is a big slap to Taliban and those who try to destroy our country,” said Hamid Ibrahimi, a 31-year-old voter, Najafizada reported. The Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist guerrilla movement that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, boycotted the election and sought to disrupt the balloting with violence.
“The United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the new government chosen by the Afghan people on the basis of mutual respect and mutual accountability,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
The top contenders were Abdullah Abdullah, a diplomat who finished second in the 2009 election; Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former finance minister under Karzai; and Zalmai Rassoul, a former foreign minister.
The U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan fell to about 34,000 in February from a peak of 100,000 in June 2011, according to a Congressional Research Service report last month.
All of the presidential candidates pledged to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement, which would keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond this year to train Afghan security forces and conducting counter-terrorism operations. Karzai has refused to sign it, leaving the decision to his successor.