With 50 people killed in Taliban attacks across the country on Saturday, the final round of Afghanistan's presidential elections passed more quietly than anyone expected, in a public-relations triumph for the country's security forces. Inside Kabul, the Taliban fired a few rockets harmlessly toward the northern suburbs after daybreak, as if for form's sake. But the election went ahead anyway, with small trickles of voters filing into polling centers across the capital throughout the day.
Lines were almost nonexistent, an outcome political activists ascribed variously to the fierce heat, lack of ballot papers, increased efficiency on behalf of the electoral commission, and voter apathy. After the first round of voting, polls showed Dr. Abdullah Abdullah taking a solid lead over his opponent, former World Bank economist Dr. Ashraf Ghani. But at each of the three polling centers VICE News visited, almost every voter interviewed claimed to have cast a vote for Ghani, implying the final result may be closer than anyone expected.
Electoral monitors for both candidates traded accusations of attempted fraud, with Abdullah taking the lion's share of the blame. At the polling center in Kabul's upper-middle-class District 10, VICE News witnessed stern-faced soldiers escorting away a secret policeman after he was caught attempting to vote for Abdullah twice.
In a month's time, the ballot papers from Afghanistan's provinces will have been counted, and Afghanistan will have a new president. Depending on the closeness of the results, the transition to a new administration may take place smoothly, or may be marred by accusations of electoral fraud and voter intimidation. But the fact the elections took place with a relatively low death toll is a quiet kind of victory for Afghanistan's fledgling democracy.