KABUL, April 11 (Xinhua) -- More than 7 million Afghans, including women, voted in polling centers across Afghanistan on April 5 despite threats of violence by the Taliban, a virtual repudiation of the militant group and its desire to regain power in the conflict-ridden country.
The election was for the position of Afghan president and members of the provincial councils or assemblies.
The final results of presidential elections will be announced on May 14. The five-year term of outgoing President Hamid Karzai' s expires on May 22 and his successor would assume office on May 23.
Observers here said that by ignoring Taliban threats and the high turnout in voting centers sent a clear message to the hardliner Taliban and similar insurgent groups that extremism does not enjoy the support of majority of Afghans. "Afghans by their huge participation in the elections on the voting day on Saturday demonstrated their support for democracy and their hatred toward the Taliban and fanaticism," Nazari Pariani, a respected Afghan journalist, told Xinhua.
Pariani, who is the editor in chief of the Daily Mandegar, said that the Taliban or any other groups that want to monopolize power and rule the country by force would never enjoy national support, adding that most Afghans want to live in peace.
The Taliban, which has fought the government and NATO-led forces in their bid to regain power in Afghanistan, had termed the elections as "waste of time and a U.S. ploy to continue its occupation of Afghanistan". The group has repeatedly warned Afghans to boycott the elections or face death or other forms of reprisal.
In pre-election statements, the Taliban vowed to target election workers and those who provide security for the election process. It had also warned to cut off the fingers of those who cast their ballots on the voting day.
Nonetheless, 7.5 million Afghans, 36 percent of them women, defied the Taliban warnings and trooped to the polling centers to enjoy their right of suffrage albeit amid tight security.
No major security incidents or suicide attacks by Taliban militants had been reported across the country on the Election Day.
"I was prepared to get my fingers chopped off by Taliban in exchange for my right to vote for the future of my country. Fortunately I was able to cast my vote in favor of my favorite candidate for the president of Afghanistan without any untoward incident," Fariha, a female university student, told Xinhua.
Fariha recalled the dark days of Taliban rule when they overrun Kabul in 1996, shut down all schools and confined women to houses. "I don't want to lose the achievements that Afghanistan has made over the past 12 years. I want Afghanistan to move ahead towards a brighter future and more peace and prosperity for its people," she said.
Taliban militants have actually chopped off fingers of several persons who voted in the 2009 Afghan elections. However, so far this year, no case of finger-chopping has been reported.
In reaction to the successful holding of April 5 Afghan elections, the Taliban in their statements termed it as "phony" elections and vowed to continue fighting until they succeed in the reestablishment of a hard-line Islamic rule in the country.
Since the huge participation of Afghans in the elections gives popular mandate to the next president, it would eventually empower the next government to take the country towards more stability and progress, although it will still face Taliban-led militancy in the years ahead, one analyst said.