Long lines were seen at almost every polling station around Kabul Saturday, despite heavy rain and security threats. Afghans are voting for a new president along with provincial candidates in what will be the nation's first transfer of power through an election process.
Men have their fingers inked before receiving ballots for Saturday's election.
A soldier fills out his ballot behind cardboard privacy screens in a Kabul polling station.
Women walk into the halls of a girls' high school in Kabul to vote.
An election poster explains Afghanistan's voting procedures.
Women wait their turn to vote.
Men stand in line to have their fingers inked and IDs checked before receiving their voting ballots.
A man prepares to cast his ballot after filling out both the provincial and presidential voting forms in Kabul.
Despite heavy rains, the turnout was brisk with long lines for both men and women at may voting stations.
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Millions of Afghans lined up to vote for a new president Saturday, despite warnings of violence from the Taliban.
Saturday's historic vote begins what would be the first democratic transfer of power for Afghanistan; President Hamid Karzai has served for two terms and is not allowed to run for a third under the country's constitution.
Afghan Election: NPR's Sean Carberry Reports From Kabul
"'I am not afraid. We only die once,' said hotel worker Jamil, 51, as he stood behind dozens of men at a mosque that served as a polling station in Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan district. 'We are voting to make clear our future, to choose a next leader who will bring us peace and security,' echoed Mohammed Yussef, a 32-year-old hotel worker."
The BBC said turnout has been brisk despite heavy rain in the capital, Kabul. "BBC correspondents said young voters in particular were defying the conditions and the security threats," the network reported.
Hundreds of thousands of security forces were on duty to protect voters. The Associated Press says mobile phone messaging went down Friday night, apparently to prevent militants from using messages to signal attacks.
Afghans are choosing between eight candidates, but three are considered front-runners and none is expected to win a majority, making a runoff in late May or early June all but certain.
The three candidates — former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmay Rassoul, and former finance minister and World Bank official Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai — share similar policy proposals. From the AP:
"All have promised to sign a security agreement with the United States that will allow thousands of foreign troops to remain in the country after 2014 — which Karzai has refused to do. The candidates differ on some issues such as the country's border dispute with Pakistan. But all preach against fraud and corruption and vow to improve security."
Update at 10:45 a.m. ET: A Long Wait For Results
It will be more than a month before certified results of today's vote will be released, on May 14.
"We should start to get some basic preliminary results in the coming days, but the actual count won't be completed until April 20," Sean Carberry tells Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday.
Sean adds, "Most analysts are convinced there's no chance any of the candidates will get more than 50 percent of the vote today, which means the top two candidates will go to a runoff, probably to be held sometime in June."
That means it will likely be late summer or early fall before a successor to Karzai is announced.
Update at 10 a.m. ET: Large Turnout, And Safety Concerns
"Turnout was so high that many polling centers ran out of ballots," NPR's Sean Carberry reports for our Newscast unit. "Election officials had to scramble to deliver more."
More than 200 polling stations were closed Saturday, over worries that they could be targets for violence, Sean says. That forced many voters to travel farther than they had intended to cast their ballots.
Millions of people voted, emerging from polling stations with fingers stained with purple ink to prove they'd taken part in the election.
Update at 7:45 a.m. ET: Voting Period Extended
Polling stations are remaining open an extra hour, NPR's Sean Carberry tells us. Saturday's deadline had been 4 p.m., but officials say they will tally the vote of everyone who's in line as of 5 p.m.