In the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, peaceful streets and long voter lines on Saturday stood in stark contrast to the violent 2009 election, when residents cowered indoors fearful of Taliban attack.

The city where the Taliban first emerged in the early 1990s has been the scene of much insurgent unrest since 2001, and was the nadir of the much-criticised poll five years ago.

But voters turned out in droves on Saturday to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai, many taken aback by how peacefully the poll passed off.

“There were still worries about the militants but everyone was keen to get out and experience this day,” said Abdullah (23), a university student.

Marked enthusiasm

“It is good to see so many people wanting to vote compared with before. This was an important personal decision for me.”

Only a few men, and almost no women, went to the 2009 polls due to Taliban threats to target polling stations and to cut off anyone’s finger dipped in ink to show they had voted. — AFP