Campaigning for Afghanistan's presidential election kicks off with rallies and billboards

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Afghan employees prepare printed posters of a presidential candidate at Baheer Printing Company a day before Afghanistan's presidential election campaign officially kicks off, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. The posters are printed. The rallies are organized. A televised debate is planned. Campaign season for Afghanistan's presidential election kicks off Sunday, and the stakes are high for the 11 candidates vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai and oversee the final chapter in a NATO-led combat mission. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Campaigning is officially underway for Afghanistan's presidential election, with 11 candidates vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai.

The April 5 presidential vote will be a crucial test of whether Afghanistan can ensure a stable political transition as NATO combat forces ready their withdrawal after nearly 13 years of war.

The election faces many hurdles: allegations of vote-rigging marred the 2009 election and security is a major concern.

The specter of violence hangs over the campaign, with the Taliban vowing to disrupt the poll. On the eve of the campaign launch, two political workers were killed in western Afghanistan.

Early Saturday, Kabul was dotted with billboards and posters for the candidates.

Several political heavyweights — including Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani — held rallies to mark the campaign's first day.

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