As Afghans prepare to go to the polls in Thursdays’ presidential election the international community is growing increasingly concerned on a number of fronts.European observers believe the election registration procedure could throw up opportunities for electoral fraud, particularly the registration of women. Added to that is President Hamid Karzai’s reliance for support on ex-militia leaders, men who have dominated the country’s politics for years. The road to the second post-Taliban election has been paved with blood and the threat of more violence is palpable. The Taliban have moved their most fervent supporters into less hardline areas to disrupt the vote. One French soldier said the situation is tense: “Of course the situation has become worse due to the election. The insurgents have got the upper hand again.” NATO has suspended “offensive operations” as the vote looms with western forces on hand to assist, if necessary, Afghan security forces. Polls show Karzai will win Thursday’s vote, but suggest he may fall short of the outright majority needed to avoid a second round.