It's official: Afghanistan will hold presidential elections on 5 April 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has insisted the vote will proceed, despite legitimate fears that the impending US troops withdrawal and related security concerns could delay the election. Karzai, serving his second five year term, is prohibited from running again.
The hurdles to a fair, clean election in Afghanistan are huge. During the last election in 2009, the vote was delayed, and then took place under conditions widely seen as corrupt, with large scale voting fraud and violence. Karzai won't be on the ballot this time, but the corruption regularly connected to his government could well taint the 2014 vote.
In addition, violence – both from resurgent Taliban forces and from so-called "green on blue" attacks (attacks on coalition troops by Afghan security forces) – is on the rise. With Nato forces slated to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 – maybe even earlier – a likely security vacuum could further complicate the election.
Dangers aside, the very presence of democratic elections in Afghanistan is a positive sign. And though the next president will inherit many troubles, he will also inherit some key areas of progress.
A big "fight" Tuesday night offered an important reminder of what's at stake here. Millions of Afghans, swelling with pride, watched Afghan boxer Hamid Rahimi win a world title at the country's first professional boxing match, held in Kabul. The match, which would have been banned under Taliban rule, was held under tight security and broadcast across the country to widespread enthusiasm. This Afghan government and the next must rise to the hopes of its people and give them the security and stability they so crave.
Read more: Foreign Policy takes a look at some of the efforts under way to lay the foundation for clean elections and political stability in Afghanistan.
Sources: Reuters, New York Times, Diplomat, Military, Economist, BBC, Foreign Policy