Afganistan held its third presidential election Saturday since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, and preliminary reports indicate a high turnout among the close to 13 million eligible voters.

The leader of an observation organization, Arash Barak, told Efe in the afternoon that he expected a rate of participation even higher than the 60 percent that was one of the more optimistic forecasts in the local press.

On election day no significant insurgent attacks were reported, although, according to the Electoral Commission, 211 of the 6,423 polling stations in the country had to close at some time during the day due to various incidents.

The worst attack on Saturday occurred in the southern province of Zabul, where two police died and another two were wounded when their vehicle was blown up by the improvised explosive device they ran over, according to local authorities.

Three candidates started out as frontrunners to replace Hamid Karzai, in office for more than 12 years and winner of the two previous presidential elections in 2004 and 2009.

Abdullah Abdullah, Ashraf Ghani and Zalmai Rassoul head the list of hopefuls in an election that could possibly require a runoff, which would likely be held around the end of May in case no candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the vote.

Besides the Taliban threats, these elections face some doubts among the international community about the degree of transparency in the voting, partly because the electoral commission has issued more than 20 million voter registration cards, which could lead to fraud. EFE