With insurgent attacks on the rise, a British military commander warns that Taliban fighters will try to disrupt the voting in Afghanistan's parliamentary elections this Saturday. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for killing at least three candidates. Human Rights Watch says the violence and threats against election officials and anyone who dares to vote could severely compromise the results of the country's second parliamentary vote since a U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power. Is it possible to hold free and fair elections in these conditions? (Watch an al Jazeera report about voting card fraud)

No, this vote will be a fraud: With corruption still rampant, says Pip Hinman at Green Left Weekly, this vote is bound to "be no more free and fair" than the presidential election Hamid Karzai stole last year. With election officials forced to close 15 percent of the 6,900 polling centers, this will inevitably be, as one politician aptly put it, a "democratic facade."
"Afghanistan: Elections are a fraud"

Even incremental improvement would be good news: It's unreasonable to expect Afghan elections to be "free and fair by any Western standard," says the Rand Corporation's Olga Oliker at AsiaFoundation.org. But if the nation makes "progress toward greater transparency" with every election and "the Afghan people feel that their votes matter," the move toward true democracy is working.
"Afghanistan braces for parliamentary elections"

At best, the vote will be "a mixed blessing": Every election can potentially be a lesson in the benefits of democracy, says Malou Innocent at The Huffington Post. The trouble is, in Afghanistan "the mechanisms and institutions underlying the democratic process are widely perceived as fraudulent, unstable, and inefficient." With a corrupt system, even a "free and fair" election can devolve "into a stage-managed shell-game."
"Afghanistan's 2010 parliamentary elections: Bright spot or blood spot?"