And the early word is that they have gone off without serious violence. UN Envoy Kai Eide is optimistic:
During the visit, Mr Eide said: “I am pleased to see that so far the elections have been going quite well. I see it and hear it from the across the country that there is a good turnout.”
The UN’s Special Representative for Afghanistan added: “This democracy has to grow up from inside. That’s why I think these elections are very important that these elections are organized by the Afghans. And we in the international community have been completely impartial with regard to who we would like to win these elections. It is so important to demonstrate that, if not, we will not have Afghan institutions that can stand up on their own feet. That is a long way to go.”
Of course this makes sense, but it’s also worth remembering how hard it actually is to know how much or how little violence is occurring. Afghan officials don’t want to publish or publicize incidents of Taliban violence, and international observers don’t want to get so close to the process that they are seen as interfering. For now, scanning Twitter (#Afghanelections and #Afghan09) might give one a sense of what’s going on on the ground, but I can’t help but be skeptical of the incomplete picture this gives; how many Afghans are Twitterers anyway?
At any rate, conducting these elections is an impressive step. There are sure to be improprieties, and, unfortunately, insurgent attacks, but millions of Afghans are voting, and the world is paying attention.