Kabul, Sep 28: Millions of Afghan voters are set to elect a new president in the fourth election since United States-led troops ousted the Taliban in 2001.
Polling will begin 7am local time (0230 GMT) on Saturday and is scheduled to close by 5pm (1230 GMT). Preliminary results of the election are not expected before October 19. A presidential candidate must secure 50 per cent of the vote to win outright. In case no candidate crosses the 50 per cent threshold, a runoff will be held between the top two contenders in the second round in November.
About 9.5 million voters are registered to cast their ballot to decide the fate of 15 candidates, including the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani, whose administration has been blighted by corruption allegations as well as overseeing the rising number of civilian casualties.
However, the Taliban, which has called for a boycott of what they call a "fake election process", has carried out a string of attacks, killing hundreds of people over the last few weeks. Nearly two decades since the international community intervened, the US has been trying to negotiate an end to the conflict with the Taliban. But, after a series of talks with the US until it was scrapped late last month, the Taliban has long refused to speak to the West-backed Afghan government calling it a "puppet regime".
The US currently has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, as well as thousands more from countries like the UK, Germany and Italy, there as part of a Nato mission to train, advise and assist the country's security forces. UNI