Afghanistan has seen a number of high profile attacks recently. Restaurants, hotels, NGOs, and journalists have been targets.

The high election turnout, in urban areas (and some but not all rural areas), is being explained as a strong rejection of Taliban violence, and the chaos, and the corruption. The recent violence, and the nature of it, has been a turning point in opinion. Enough!

Performance of Afghan security forces, on election day, is seen as a real success.

In assuming below, far too early, that Ashraf Ghani is the likely winner, I am relying on the dynamics of Ghani versus Abdullah in a second round. Either Ghani ekes out a victory narrowly above 50% now. Or he has strong advantages in the second round. YMMV.

Also, that internationalist technocrats, as president of Afghanistan, are in fact better.

More and Better Technocrats

Ashraf Ghani brings up the more versus better technocrats dilemma, that we should be familiar with here.

Up till now, he might have been seen as the better technocrats choice. He is anti-corruption, against rule by warlord, for moving past ethnic factionalism. He wrote the book on fixing failed states.

But where, to get elected, he has taken on his tribal name. And taken on General Dostum as running mate.

The better choice, having to be more instead, because of political realities. Would you have voted for him?

[I'm not implying there is much difficulty in the choice. Only that the situation is strongly similar to our own. I don't think it is exaggerated or heightened from our own situation, either. We have General Dostums that come with our presidential choice, every time.]

Stories about the Voting

In 2010, Anand Ghopal drove down to Wardak to report on the voting.

Upon reaching Saydabad, an area almost entirely outside the control of the Afghan government, we saw deserted streets. I visited more polling centers, only to find them abandoned. When I arrived at a polling station in the Desht-e-Top area, a lone campaign aide for one of the candidates was sitting outside. The windows were boarded up, no one was allowed inside. The police officers blithely told me that the voting was over and the workers inside were “busy”—this, two hours into the polling day.

Suddenly a group of white Toyota pickups, with armed men stuffed in the back, sped towards the center and screeched to a stop near the door. The gunmen, part of a pro-government militia, forced their way into the center and removed the poll workers. They tied their hands behind their backs with scarves and forced them to kneel on the ground.

The Spine-Chilling Emptiness of Afghanistan's Voting Booths

In 2014, many journalists drove down to Wardak to report on the voting. I suspect that earlier articles about voting in Wardak have been influential. And that voting shenanigans by our friend Abdul Raziq, in Kandahar, as example, have been relatively overlooked.

Fabrizio Foschini, for Afghanistan Analysts Network, drove north to the Shomali plains.

The Shomali’s importance in an Afghan election cannot be underestimated. The area is a good reservoir of votes, a strategic one for one of the major candidates, Dr Abdullah, but where also another contender, Ustad Sayyaf, has pockets of consistent support and has been campaigning effectively in the past months. Despite its being not far from Kabul and generally stable, this year not many international observers were allowed to visit it because of security concerns.

Elections 2014 (6): Two types of security in the Shomali

Afghanistan Analysts Network also has a collection of reports, with a variety of impressions depending on local circumstances.
Paktia presented a very diverse picture, different from district to district. In general, the people I saw coming to polling stations (mostly men, I didn’t see many women) seemed really happy to be able to vote, it showed in their faces. But sometimes they couldn’t.

Elections 2014 (4): The election day in snapshots from the provinces

Kevin Sieff, at the Washington Post, is one of this year's visits to Wardak.
Nerkh, AFGHANISTAN — They were the only voters at a polling station here, and Taliban gunfire could be heard from the voting booth.

But before they cast their ballots for Afghanistan’s next president, the three men had a request. They did not want to dip their fingers in ink — the process used here to identify voters and keep them from casting more than one ballot.

In Taliban stronghold, a scared electorate

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