On Thursday, Afghanis will — hopefully — head to the polls to vote for a new leader, in what US President Barack Obama has called “the most important event of the year in Afghanistan”.

But casting a ballot in the war-torn country is a lot more difficult than simply strolling down to the local primary school and deciding between the sausage sizzle and lamington drive before stuffing some paper in a box. The Taliban are openly threatening to attack polling booths, and there are already concerns over the competency of the Afghan Independent Election Commission — who will be running things without help from the UN for the first time this year — in registering and counting votes.

The election is more than just a test for Afghanistan, of course — its efficacy will be viewed by many outsiders as a measure of the United States’ (and, to a lesser extent, its allies’) success in securing and democratising the country. We take a look at what the world is saying.

Millions of Afghan women will be denied vote. Millions of Afghan women will be denied their chance to vote in presidential elections this week because there aren’t enough female officials to staff the women-only polling stations… Without female staff to operate the strictly segregated stations, and more importantly, without female searchers to frisk women voters as they arrive at those stations, conservative men across the country will ban their wives and daughters from taking part. — Huffington Post

How accurate is pre-election polling in Afghanistan? Recent polls suggest that Hamid Karzai will garner the most votes but fall short of a majority, necessitating a runoff election. How accurate are polls in Afghanistan? They’re better than they were before the country’s 2004 election but not nearly as good as Western polls. — Slate

Five things to watch around Afghan elections. I’m here in the country as part of one of the international delegations to observe the elections … We’re getting a steady stream of reports from the observers posted around the country. Although it’s early to draw any definitive conclusions, here are five things to watch for in Afghanistan in the coming weeks. — Brian Katulis, Foreign Policy

What the Afghan elections say about us. Pundits around the world will be carefully scrutinizing the Afghan elections for what they say about the situation in Afghanistan. They should be paying more attention to what the elections reveal about the international community — in other words, what they reveal about us. — Jeremy Shapiro, The Brookings Institution

Surprise! Karzai trucks in warlords to win elections. Let’s skip around the manufactured outrage over the news that Hamid Karzai is bringing back Abdul Rashid Dostum, the warlord responsible for 2001’s mass killing of Taliban prisoners, so Dostum’s clout among Afghanistan’s Uzbek minority can secure Karzai’s re-election. The only thing surprising is that anyone is surprised. — Spencer Ackerman, The Washington Independent

Too much democracy, too soon? I’m beginning to hope that Hamid Karzai pulls a Ahmadi-Khamenei and steals the thing. Yes, he is corrupt and incompetent. Yes, democracy is a wonderful thing. But too much democracy, too soon, in a country that is barely governed — see under Palestine, 2005 — can be a toxic disaster. — Joe Klein, TIME

For more news and views on the election, keep an eye on Crikey’s Afghanistan Election page.

Peter Fray

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