Afghan Election Marred by Fraud, Karzai Opponent Says

International observers admit that they may be hard pressed to spot fraud, since security fears prevented them from witnessing voting in many parts of southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Taliban Tactics Scare off Afghan Voters

The Free and Fair Elections Foundation, an Afghan group, said Taliban militants had followed through on threats and chopped the fingers off of two voters in the southern district of Kandahar. The interior ministry says the Taliban launched more than 70 attacks and killed at least 26 on election day.

"When you're holding an election during a war, it's extremely difficult I think to have the types of observer missions that you might have in a different country," Katulis said.

"International observers were extremely constrained in their ability to actually see much of this election," he said. "I don't know of any international observer delegation that had a significant presence in the rural parts of this country. And this country is mostly rural."

There are no official tallies of turnout, especially in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban are strongest. But in Helmand and Kandahar, where thousands of U.S. troops have arrived this year to try and battle back the insurgency, threats and dozens of attacks reduced turnout to as low as 5 percent, according to the campaign of Ashraf Ghani, who was running fourth in polls before the election.

International observers have said turnout would be closer to 10 to 15 percent, and that overall turnout will be around 50 percent.

That is far lower than the 70 percent turnout during the 2004 elections.

The difference is reflective of the changes in Afghanistan since 2004: a deterioration of security and widespread disenchantment with democracy. More than half of Afghans, according to an ABC/BBC/ARD poll, believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.

That was evident in a long conversation in one of Kabul's central parks with a group of men in their late 20s and early 30s. For an hour the group traded comments about the election and answered ABC News questions. All the men were Pashtun, the largest ethnic group of the country and the one most affected by lack of security. Of the nine talking, only one voted, though he had managed to wash off most of the indelible ink used to prevent fraud.

Unemployed Afghans Say Presidential Vote Unlikely to Improve Life

Agha Khan, 28 answered for the group when he said most of them did not vote because the Taliban controls much of the areas where their families live.

He said he was driving from Jalalabad, where his family lives in eastern Afghansitan, to Kabul when "the police told me that on the way there are Taliban. They were stopping people and checking their fingers, and whoever had voted and had ink on their fingers, they were cutting their fingers off."

"Security is a big factor," said Samiullah, 29, who like many Afghans goes by only one name. He lives on the edge of Kabul and said there was a small Taliban attack early in the morning.

"My phone started ringing and everyone from my family was asking, 'Where are you, what the hell are you doing, why aren't you home?'" he said. "I told them I was voting. And they asked, 'Why? It's not worth it.' So many of my family had registered to vote, but they didn't go out because of security that day."

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