Today's Afghan elections are unlikely to determine the next president since the field is so crowded, but that didn't stop the people from voting, nor did threats of violence.
April 5, 2014

Afghanistan is voting for their next president, and voters are turning out in droves to do it. It's been amazing to watch the streams on Twitter as photo after photo is posted of lines of men and women voting in defiance of the Taliban's threats.

Peter Bergen, writing for

Even with the Taliban violence, recent polling by the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan found that 75% of Afghans saidthey wanted to vote. That is essentially the same finding of a separate poll taken almost a year ago that found that 76% of Afghans planned to vote.

Even allowing for some drop-off on Election Day, most Afghan experts I have talked to believe the turnout will likely be in the 60% to 70% range. Turnout in the previous presidential election in 2009 was only around 30%.

By contrast, the last time a U.S. presidential election had a 60% turnout was in 1968, and the last time it was above 70% was in 1900.

There's no question that voter intensity is directly related to Afghans' desire to see the Taliban crushed. This is just one example:

Because of the crowded field, it's likely that a runoff is in the offing. Bergen:

Afghan election law requires the winning presidential candidate to obtain more than 50% of the votes to win. Given that there are eight candidates still in the field, such an outcome seems unlikely. That means the two top candidates from Saturday's voting will go to a runoff election. According to the senior Afghan official, the runoff will likely take place on June 20.

All of the enthusiasm bodes well for Afghanistan's commitment to democracy. Bergen, once again, on the real reconciliation process afoot in a weary, war-torn country:

The negotiations with the Taliban were known in Washington circles as "the reconciliation process." In fact, the real reconciliation process is what you will see in Afghanistan on Saturday: Huge turnout by voters across the country voting across ethnic lines for seasoned politicians who have partnered with leaders of other ethnic groups.

This isn't the predicted civil war; it's more like a civics love fest. If only we could try to import some of this spirit into the U.S. Congress.

Amen to that. I'd also like to see the same commitment imported into our midterm electorate. If they voted like Afghans are today, our American Taliban would be vanquished, too.

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