Some 60% of Afghan voters went to the polls Saturday for the second round of presidential elections. Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani was in a tight race with former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, and it will be weeks before we know the final outcome. But the fact that both men are pro-Western moderates should put to rest the notion that the Afghan people and their leaders are not ready for democracy. The election marks an improvement over the 2009 ballot that re-elected Hamid Karzai, which was marred by low voter turnout and credible allegations of widespread fraud. The turnaround is a testament to the success of the U.S. surge in routing the Taliban from their old strongholds, and of the ability of Afghan security forces—army and police—to maintain security at thousands of polling places.
The Taliban failed to launch a single significant attack during the first round of balloting in April. This time insurgents managed to launch attacks that have killed some 40 people and there have been some allegations of fraud. But that still counts as a success in an election that counted some seven million voters.
The immediate challenge is to make sure a clear victor emerges from the vote—and that the loser acknowledges defeat. On Sunday spokesmen for both camps were claiming to be in the lead. This could become dangerous if the vote proves to be close. Mr. Abdullah, who took the largest share of the vote in the first round, has previously ruled out a coalition with Mr. Ghani. But that’s something he might want to reconsider. Should he win, his government would be ill-served by the winner-take-all attitude that so damaged Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in dealing with his opposition.
Full Article: The Next Afghan President – WSJ.