Afghan election looms over US

The first results for last week's presidential election in Afghanistan show incumbent Hamid Karzai has a narrow lead over his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah. However, only 10% of the ballots have been counted.

Karzai's team is claiming victory, while Abdullah accuses the President's camp of rigging the vote. Final results are expected to be announced after mid-September.

The election was marred by threats from the Taliban, who were blamed for keeping people away from ballot boxes.

Poll numbers, which do not agree with one another, are making it increasingly difficult to predict final results.

While the Bush administration supported Hamid Karzai nearly unconditionally, the scene has changed with the inauguration of Barack Obama, who seems to be keeping his distance.

Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, says that from day one, both Obama and Biden seemed to have had a low opinion of Karzai:

“The real problem here is that whoever wins will have to re-establish a government that is not perceived as corrupt”

Gareth Porter, an investigative journalist and historian, thinks the preliminary poll figures are not what analysts should be looking at to assess the elections:

“If you’re trying to understand the politics of elections in Afghanistan, what you really need to focus on is not so much poll numbers, although that can be an indicator of the relative strength of the candidates. More important is the information that we can pick up about what the government has in store in terms of organizing these elections”.