Earlier this week, Taliban insurgents vowed to disrupt Afghanistan’s presidential election as roadside bombs went off in Kandahar, armed insurgents stormed a bank in Kabul, and a rocket struck the presidential palace compound. Fearing this violence would lead to low voter turnout, Afghanistan’s government barred the media from reporting on terrorist activity before Thursday’s presidential election.
This is only the second presidential election Afghanistan has seen since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. President Hamid Karzai is widely seen as the frontrunner, but his main opponent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, has been gaining ground recently and many believe Mr. Karzai lacks the 50.1% majority needed to prevent a runoff.
The fear among Afghans is not only Taliban retaliation, but election fraud as well. It was reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that fraud has ranged from underage voting to fake voter registration cards to the bribing of election workers to support a specific candidate; all of which directly threaten the future of democracy in Afghanistan.
As Afghans take to the polls today, we must hope for a high turnout as a vote of confidence in democracy. But should election fraud rear its ugly head, Afghans will lose their confidence and their outlook will be: damned if we do, damned if we don’t.