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19 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Election workers are collecting ballot boxes from across Afghanistan after the country voted on a legislature for the first time in more than 35 years.

Millions of voters defied threats from the Taliban to cast their ballots on 18 September. Electoral officials say early
indications suggest slightly more than 50 percent of the voters cast their ballots, or about 6 million people.

The chairman of the Joint Electoral Management Body, Bismillah Bissmil, pronounced the elections successful.

"Despite all security concerns, fortunately, the elections were held in a perfect orderly and peaceful manner," he said. "This indicates on the one hand the efforts and selflessness of the national and international forces responsible for security. And on the other hand it indicates the high political awareness of Afghan people [and their] political participation."

The elections for the lower house of the national assembly and provincial councils were Afghanistan's first since 1969. They are viewed as a crucial step in its progress toward democracy after decades of bloodshed.

The Taliban militia, overthrown in late 2001 for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, failed to disrupt the vote.

The vote counting is due to start on 20 September with results not expected for more than two weeks.

(AFP/Reuters)

For RFE/RL's full coverage of the legislative elections in Afghanistan, see "Afghanistan Votes"
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