ISLAMABAD, Oct 20 (KUNA) -- Security has been beefed up across Afghanistan on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in long-delayed parliamentary elections in the country for the third time since the fall of Taliban government in 2001.
Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani officially launched the opening of the polls by casting his vote at a Kabul polling station.
Addressing media after the vote, he said that he wants to thank the people for having made this possible.
He said, "More than eight million people registered to vote and now are ready to select their future themselves." He also remembered the "freedom martyrs", which according him are those who lost their lives during the election process. "I request every Afghan to use their right to vote today.
It is a right and a responsibility," he added. Hours after polling stations officially opened, complaints were streaming in about polling stations in areas that had not yet opened.
The Independent Election Complaint Commission (IECC) on Saturday expressed concern over the weak administration, technical problems, increases in security threats and interference by the some security personnel in voting process.
The polls, which were originally scheduled for early 2015, were last pushed to October 20 due to security fears and reforms in the voter registration process.
The Afghan government claimed to keep the voting process safe but violence was reported in several parts of the country including Kabul on the Election Day.
Taliban rebels have vowed to disrupt the polling process with their spokesperson saying, "People who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security should be targeted and no stone should be left unturned for the prevention and failure [of the elections]."
According to IEC, at least 10 candidates have been killed since July and around 2,000 polling stations that were threatened directly by the Taliban will remain closed.
Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) spokesman, Najib Danish said 20,000 polling stations were open and secured by 70,000 security and defense forces.
He said the situation was under control nationwide and terrorists should know they were confronting 30 million Afghans. Danish said some technical issues that existed in some remote areas had been resolved. "We will announce now many people voted after the process ends," he informed.
There are 20,000 polling stations in 5,100 polling centers in the country's 32 participating provinces where polling is scheduled to be held from 7am to 4 pm.
The vote will form the Wolesi Jirga (lower house) which will serve five year terms.
There are 250 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, including 10 seats that are reserved for Kuchis (Afghan nomads) and one jointly for the Sikh and Hindu communities.
There must be 68 female representatives, with each province having at least one.
All Afghan citizens who are 18 years of age or older with a valid voter identification card have the right to vote.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that 8,918,107 people have registered to vote in the elections, of which 3,067,918 are women and 5,681,592 are men.
There are 2,565 candidates running in the Wolesi Jirga elections, 417 of whom are women.
Around 205 candidates are registered as members of political parties with 44 belonging to Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum's Jonbesh-e Melli-ye Islami party and 42 to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami party.
Voting in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar will be delayed by one week following this week's assassination of the powerful provincial police commander, General Abdul Raziq.
The election will also not take place in the eastern province of Ghazni due to security threats and dispute over electoral constituencies.
Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been closed for two days over the request of Afghan government over the security concerns on Election Day. (end)