Afghanistan's Presidential Election: What's At Stake

President Hamid Karzai is constitutionally barred from running for another term. Eleven candidates are running to replace him.
Posted at 9:55 AM, Apr 05, 2014

Afghans head to the polls today to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai in an election that marks the country's first democratic transition of power.   

This election is pivotal. Whoever wins will have to deal with the Taliban insurgency largely without the help of U.S. forces, which are planning to withdraw at the end of the year — leaving the relatively inexperienced Afghan security forces on their own. (Via U.S. Air Force

Security is a major issue on the minds of voters. The Taliban, ousted, of course, in 2001, has tried to undermine the elections with violence targeting international observers and the election commission. (Via BBC

“The thing that everyone is hoping is that the Taliban convert themselves into a political party, and contest the elections — we’re nowhere near that. That is quite a long way off.” (Via The Economist

To address these concerns, the U.S. has drawn up a bilateral security agreement which would leave some international troops behind to provide support to local forces. (Via CBS

But so far Karzai refused to sign it — leaving that task to his successor. (Via U.S. State Department

Now, there are eleven candidates are seeking to replace Karzai — all of whom have said they will sign the agreement. Though experts have whittled it down to three frontrunners.

First, there’s Abdullah Abdullah, an opthamologist viewed as a moderate. He’s vowed to sign a deal within a month to keep U.S. forces in the country beyond this year. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Crans Montana Forum

Other contenders include Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai — who lost to Karzai in the last disputed election and Zalmai Rassoul — widely seen as the current president's handpicked successor. (Via U.S. State Department

Formal results are expected April 20, though initial poll numbers should trickle in over the next few days.