Polls have closed as millions of Afghans turned out to vote in presidential elections that pundits view as a yardstick of the country's stability. How are the signs so far? Despite threats of violence from the Taliban, turnout appears high. Will fears of corruption be fulfilled? Even as counting begins, commentators' expectations are still shifting, with more predicting that President Karzai will fail to win a majority and face runoff elections
What are the early signs and predictions now that the polls have closed?
- Low Taliban Turnout, suggests Pamela Constable reporting from Kabul in the Washington Post. Describing the elections as "unexpectedly quiet," she noted that "turnout appeared to be relatively low in the capital and in southern provinces with a strong Taliban presence" and "Afghan and foreign officials said a feared disaster had been averted."
- Corruption, as Feared, says an eyewitness named Behruz a long and excellent live blog of the election at the BBC. "Its not an election but a comedy. In my neighborhood I saw a few guys who easily washed their fingers and went for second time to vote, if all these things are happening in capital what do you think how is the condition in remote areas?"
- Women Widely Participated, suggest further reports from the BBC live blog. "Women's participation in central Daykundi province is remarkably high." "I was not able to vote due to long queues. The turn out is great, particularly the women." "I can see a number of girls with make-up wearing jeans and mini-skirts voting in a school. There are women in burkas too. Many of the women voters seems to be students."
- Karzai Will Be Forced into a Runoff, says a poll of experts at Foreign Policy magazine. This is a surprising shift, given that expectations gave Karzai stronger odds, making this "a much tighter race than many originally expected."
- Disputed Elections, warns Christian Ambrose at Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog. He outlines the worst-case scenarios, the first of which he compares to the violent demonstrations in Tehran. He calls it "the Iran scenario -- a disputed election result, allegations of fraud, and a drawn-out political fight laced with street protests and sporadic violence. This could be set off by either a narrow Karzai win or a suspicious Karzai blow-out (Ahmadinejad style)."
- Beware the Aftermath, writes Kim Barker from Kabul in the Daily Beast. "And although fears of violence on Thursday are high, any violence from Karzai's political opponents when results are announced could pose a far more serious threat to the fledgling democracy than a few suicide bombs."