Photo Essay

  • Moqtar Faizi, 23, is a craftsman from the Shomali plain. "All of them are good, but Abdullah might be the best candidate. I hope that the new government will bring peace. I hope when there's more security, families will buy more clay ovens and my business will improve."
  • Pahlawan Amirullah, 45, is a workshop owner. "I have a lot of optimism for the new president, but I don't know what will happen. In these 12 years, the people's hopes weren't fulfilled- we believed in Karzai, but he didn't deliver. The new president might be the same."
  • Atiqullah, 47, is a mobile phone card seller from Kabul. "Real changes will only come when the new president makes peace with the Taliban and brings them in to join the government. The big problem we have is Pakistan. Pakistan and the CIA don't want peace in Afghanistan. I ask the president of Pakistan not to send rockets, not to send suicide bombers here."
  • Zarifa Azimi, 24, is a laundry worker. She will be voting for Dr. Abdullah. "Karzai was better than the Taliban government, and I want the new president to be better than Karzai. He should help women so that no one beats them, and they don't burn themselves up."
  • Najibullah Mirzad, 32, is a 2nd Lieutenant in the Afghan National Police. He has a candidate that he supports but wants to keep it secret. "One of his campaign promises was that he will increase the salaries of the police, the army, and government workers. Right now my salary is 14,500 Afs, but I pay 10,000 Afs in rent."
  • Abdul Wali, 49, is a tea shop owner in the old city of Kabul. "This time we have lost, these 13 years have brought nothing from the current government. We have big economic problems because for 30 years, we've had only fighting and nothing else. We know we can't expect the new president to bring hope in 1 year, 2 years, five years. We know it will take awhile."
  • Reza Khan, 47, is a Pashtun from Kabul. He won't be voting at all in the elections. "If there was a good candidate, and no cheating in the voting, I would vote, why not? But America has already chosen who the winner will be, so the elections are just a show. Hope comes from God, I don't have any hope in these candidates."
  • Agha Biadar, 41, fixes tires on the side of the road in Kabul. " I am excited. We have to vote for someone that will really work for Afghanistan, to take us out of poverty. I spent 6 years working in Iran as a welder and mechanic, and it was clean and orderly, not like here. It was the difference between sky and earth."
  • Nooradin, 23, a woodworker, is from Parwan province and is undecided. "The last time I voted for Karzai, but he only worked for himself, not for the people of Afghanistan. But it's still better off than it was 10 years ago under the Taliban."
  • Latifa Dawali, 56, is a guard at the Emergency Hospital in Kabul. She lost her voting card, so won't be casting a ballot this year. "We thank Karzai, he brought a lot of freedom to Afghan women. In the Taliban times, we were forced to stay at home, we couldn't go out and we couldn't go to school.
  • Abdul Basir, 28, is an Afghan Special Forces soldier and was injured when he saved around 70 people during a Taliban attack on an election office on March 25. "There's a lot of candidates and all of them say 'I'll do my best to improve security and the economy.' But when they finally assume power, they fill their pockets instead."
  • Nasrullah Amiri, 18, is a truck driver voting for the first time. "I am happy to be voting for the first time. One vote can change the whole outcome."
  • Haji Glubahar, 49, a farmer from Chark district in Logar province. "I hope God will help us, but these people- they only care about dollars, not about helping Afghans. If there's a problem in the village, you have to go to the Taliban- they don't charge you a bribe, and they decide in one hour."
  • Sherzad Rashidi, 36, is a welder from Laghman province and an undecided voter. "I don't know who I will vote for yet, I will decide when I get there. Someone who will end corruption and improve the economy. We are happy with this government. This was the best government we had in 30 years, before we had nothing, no economy."
  • Obaidullah, 24, is an onion seller in Kabul. He has been working in the market for 15 years, and his biggest concern is security. "In the morning when we leave the house we don't know if we'll come home. A good president will work to bring peace, will work from his heart, to help people and take us out of this poverty."
  • Ferozuddin Sadiqui, 28, is from Wardak province and owns a tech business. This year he is voting for Dr. Ashraf Ghani. "I'm very hopeful for the betterment of this country. In the past 10 years, we've had a lot of development. After 30 years of fighting, our infrastructure was destroyed. We can't change everything in 10 years."
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Meet the voters who want an end to war

Updated

On Saturday, millions of Afghans will head to the polls, attempting the first democratic transfer of power the nation has ever seen. Voters will choose the successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has run the country since 2001 but is constitutionally banned from seeking a third term.

The main contenders are former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai; former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s main challenger in his 2009 election; and Zalmai Rassoul, who is believed to be Karzai’s preferred successor. 

The Taliban has vowed to violently disrupt the vote and a series of strikes have already preceded it, including a high-profile attack on the Independent Election Commission two weeks ago.

On Friday, an Afghan police officer shot and killed Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus and wounded AP reporter Kathy Gannon, who were on assignment there.

Security forces—including some 65,000 international forces—are working to protect candidates and have promised to protect voters and the some 7,000 polling stations, but there’s still widespread concern of violence and fraud. 

In this slideshow, photographer Victor Blue profiled Afghans and asked them what they hope the election and new president will bring to their war-torn nation. 

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography