The long road to democracy
More than 7 million Afghans, about 65 percent of eligible voters, defied the Taliban's threat of violence and voted in national elections last weekend, providing new hope that democracy has put down roots there.
The turnout was impressive for more than the total number of voters. Of those 7 million voters, 1.8 million cast ballots for the first time, indicating that the electoral process has been embraced by the next generation of Afghans.
And the number of women voters increased over the last election by 40 percent, demonstrating that they want to maintain their liberation from misogynist rule.
Voting statistics also showed that turnout was heavy across the ethnic, religious, regional and tribal divisions that so often have thwarted efforts to establish strong national, democratic institutions.
Voters also demonstrated that they understand the stakes. The candidate most closely identified with President Hamid Karzai, former Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, apparently finished a distant third and will not participate in an impending runoff for the presidency.
Mr. Karzai's intransigence has jeopardized the possibility of a continued security role for the United States that would help the nascent democracy stabilize and grow. The election should give the Obama administration the impetus to work with the new administration to continue progress toward security and democracy.