Election Day in Afghanistan

A voter casts her ballot at a polling center in Herat, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. Afghans head to the polls to elect the new president for the second time in the country's history. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
AP Photo/Saurabh Das

Ink-stained fingers of millions of Afghans marked this country's second ever Presidential vote as CBS News Correspondent Mandy Clark reports.

But across the country and particularly in the hostile south - fear was a factor.

There were no major Taliban assaults. But sporadic rocket and bomb attacks still claimed the lives of more than 20 civilians.

Rings of steel surrounded every major city, but it wasn't enough to convince voters in many parts of the country that it was worth the risk. In Kandahar turn out was 40 percent lower than the last election.

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Despite tight security in Kabul, voter turn out was also low. Whether fear of Taliban attacks or simply apathy, many Afghans clearly decided not to vote.

President Hamid Karzai was among the first to vote, saying, "No violence. Vote no violence."

Karzai's main rival Abdullah Abdullah, running on a platform of change and anti-corruption has surged in popularity and could force a run off election. He praised those who defied Taliban threats, "people have shown their courage and resilience and they are participating."

On top of the threat of violence, women faced an even greater challenge. The Election Commission was short 20,000 female officials to run polling stations for women. But some refused to be afraid.

The symbol of Afghanistan's democracy - indelible ink, used to prevent repeat voting, wasn't too indelible after all. But Afghans are hopeful that their fragile democracy won't be so easily wiped away.