Afghans flocked to polling stations nationwide today, defying a threat of violence by the Taliban to cast ballots in what promises to be the nation's first democratic transfer of power. The turnout was so high that some polling centers ran out of ballots and others took the unprecedented step of extending hours, reports the New York Times. The day has been "surprisingly peaceful," says Reuters, with only a handful of isolated attacks reported. The excitement over choosing a new leader for the first time appeared to overwhelm the fear of bloodshed in many areas, as Afghans embarked on a major transition nearly 13 years after the US-led invasion toppled the rule of the Taliban.
The vote is the first for Afghans in which the outcome is uncertain. Voters are choosing from a field of eight presidential candidates, as well as selecting provincial council members. With three front-runners in the presidential race—former foreign ministers Abdullah Abdullah and Zalmay Rassoul, and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani—a runoff seemed likely instead of an outright victory victory by one. President Hamid Karzai, the only leader the country has known since the Taliban fell, is constitutionally barred from a third term. Partial results are expected as soon as tomorrow. (Read more Afghanistan stories.)