Despite significant security concerns, Afghans went to the polls in droves on Saturday to elect a new president. An estimated 7 million voters, one-third of them women, cast ballots – a marked improvement over the 2009 elections in which only 4 million voted. Fraud and violence also occurred less than expected: while at least twenty people were killed across the country and numerous fraud complaints have been filed, there were no major attacks or allegations of foul play on the level of the 2009 election.
The results of the election won’t be known for several weeks, but a run off is likely given that no candidate is expected to get over 50 percent of the vote. President Hamid Karzai will likely play powerbroker in whatever political deals are made behind the scenes. But once in office, the new president will have to chart his own course, grappling with ongoing challenges of corruption, weak governance, insurgency, and economic turmoil. Read more of my thoughts on the election and presidential front runners in my latest U.S. News article.