KABUL - In Afghanistan these days, the definition of success is sometimes merely the absence of calamity - a metric that may well apply to this weekend's parliamentary elections.

Threats and intimidation are certain to diminish turnout in tomorrow's vote. More than 1 million voters in a nation of 32 million are disenfranchised because they live in areas deemed too dangerous for balloting to take place. Thousands of phony voter-registration cards are known to be in circulation, raising the specter of widespread fraud.

The Obama administration has sought to dampen expectations, perhaps fearing that either a major outburst of violence or a show of rampant vote-rigging would exacerbate already gnawing doubts among NATO nations about the aims of the nearly 9-year-old war.

In the weeks leading up to the elections for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament, the mantra from Western diplomats here has been: "It's not Switzerland." The implication is that in a climate of such pervasive violence, if the voting is reasonably peaceful and the outcome even passably fair, all should heave a sigh of relief.

Massive vote-rigging in last summer's presidential election led an oversight panel to toss out about one-third of the ballots cast for President Hamid Karzai. The Afghan leader was ultimately declared the winner after his main opponent dropped out.

- Los Angeles Times

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