KABUL, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Afghanistan's outgoing president Hamid Karzai on Saturday morning cast his vote in the presidential and provincial council elections in the capital of Kabul.
The Afghan leader along with other high-ranking officials arrived at Amani High School at around 7:35 a.m. close to the presidential palace to cast vote.
Among the officials accompanying Karzai were First Vice President Mohammad Younus Qanooni, Defense Minister General Bismillah Mohammadi and other cabinet ministers.
Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive five-year term, urged all Afghan voters to take part in the election process.
More than 12 million eligible voters, 35 percent of them women, are expected to cast their ballots in the one-day election across the war-torn country.
Afghans began voting earlier on Saturday to elect a new president for the next five years in the first transfer of power through polling in the country's history.
The polling opened at 7:00 a.m. (local time) and will close at 4:00 p.m.
The number of presidential candidates has dropped to eight after the withdrawal of three contenders from the race, and over 2, 500 candidates run for 458 provincial council seats in 34 provinces, including 96 seats for women.
The leading presidential candidates are former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zulmai Rassoul as well as former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
Despite rain in Kabul and several other provinces, Afghan men and women wait in long queues for voting amid tight security.
In Kabul, the provincial governor urged people to cast their vote and select a successor to current president Hamid Karzai and members of provincial councils.
"The government forces have secured all the polling centers. I request all Kabulis to visit the centers without fear. The enemy cannot stop people to decide on the future of their own country," Kabul governor Abdul Jabar Taqwa told local media.
Security remains the biggest challenge for the elections.
Moscow may deny NATO Afghan transit in retaliation: Russian legislator
MOSCOW, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Moscow has a right to deny NATO transit to and from Afghanistan in response to the alliance's decision to suspend cooperation with Russia, a senior Russian legislator said Friday.
"If our cooperation comes to a halt, we'll have the right to suspend (NATO's) transit, and the alliance will have to find other routes," Viktor Ozerov, head of the Defense and Security Committee of the Federation Council, or upper house of parliament, told Interfax news agency. Full story