KABUL, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Afghans went to the polls on Saturday to change the country's leader through ballot for the first time in the history of the war-torn country.
Afghan political observers believe that the election is significant for Afghans as the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are getting ready to leave Afghanistan by the end of this year and the Taliban militants have intensified attacks to regain power.
"This election is very important for us because it determines the political destiny of Afghanistan," political analyst Nazari Pariani told Xinhua.
Terming the election as a milestone in terms of peaceful transfer of power between outgoing president Hamid Karzai and his successor, Pariani, the editor in chief of local newspaper Daily Mandegar, expected high turnout from some 12 million eligible voters, saying they would use their suffrage to achieve the goal.
Afghanistan's third presidential election since the collapse of Taliban regime in late 2001 by the U.S.-led military invasion is being held Saturday amid Taliban threats of disruption and tight security across the country.
Karzai's two consecutive five-year terms expires on May 22 and his successor should assume office the next day.
Afghanistan has undergone more than three decades of war and civil strife. None of the Afghan rulers had transferred power peacefully in recent history.
The last king Mohammad Zahir Shah was deposed by his cousin Mohammad Daud in 1973. Then president Daud was killed in a bloody coup in 1978 led by the leftist People Democratic Party of Afghanistan and Noor Mohammad Taraki became the president of the country.
Months later Taraki was assassinated by his close aide Hafizullah Amin. After three months in power, Amin was killed by Babrak Karmal backed by the former Soviet Union.
Karmal was later deposed by president Najibullah who was killed by Taliban militants after they captured Kabul in 1996.
Afghans have fed up with the war and believed that peace can be achieved through ballot in this country so that they are waiting in long queues for casting their votes in defiance of the Taliban threat of disruption, Pariani said, adding that militants can't impose their fanatic will on the people.
Only 748 out of 7,171 polling centers remain closed on the voting day, according to Ziaul Haq Omarkhil, an official with the election commission.
More than 250,000 national and international observers will monitor the election.
The number of presidential candidates has dropped to eight after the withdrawal of three contenders from the race.
The preliminary results of the presidential election will be unveiled on April 24, the complaints period is from April 7 to 27 and the final result is expected to be announced in mid May, according to election timetable provided by the election commission.
If none of the candidates win over 50 percent of votes in the first round, the two front runners will enter runoff.
"Despite security threats on the voting day, it is essential for Afghans to decide the country's future through ballot in this critical stage," another analyst, Haron Mir, said in television talk show.