Afghans Choose A Legislature

Afghan men wait in line to vote as two children pump water in front of a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2005. Afghanistan held landmark legislative elections, the first of their kind in more then the decades. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) AP

Some filed into schools to cast their ballots amid lessons still scrawled on blackboards. Others stepped over piles of shoes to vote in mosques. In remote areas, tents served as polling stations.

Across Afghanistan, millions of people lined up at polling stations in defiance of a Taliban boycott call and militant attacks to vote for a new parliament Sunday.

It was the last formal step in starting a democracy aimed at ending decades of rule by the gun.

"Today is a magnificent day for Afghanistan," said Ali Safar, 62, standing in line to vote in Kabul. "We want dignity, we want stability and peace."

CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips reports that But turnout for these parliamentary elections was not as high as for the presidential election that chose President Hamid Karzai last October. International observers said that Taliban violence, which has killed more than 1,000 in the past six months, may have scared voters away.

Results were not expected for more than a week.

President Bush called the vote successful and a major step forward, commending the "the tremendous progress that the Afghan people have made in recent years."

Many people looked to a big vote to marginalize renegade loyalists of the ousted Taliban regime by demonstrating public support for an elected government built up under the protection of 20,000 soldiers in the American-led coalition and 11,000 NATO peacekeepers.

Washington and other governments have poured in billions of dollars trying to foster a civic system that encourages Afghanistan's fractious ethnic groups to work together peacefully and ensure the nation is never again a staging post for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

"After 30 years of wars, interventions, occupations and misery, today Afghanistan is moving forward, making an economy, making political institutions," Karzai said as he cast his ballot nearly a year after his own victory in an election that defied Taliban threats.
  • Scott Benjamin

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