The UN says it is “cautiously optimistic” of a high turnout in Afghanistan’s presidential and provincial elections.Millions of Afghans cast their ballots in polling stations across the country despite the threat of attack from the Taliban. President Hamid Karzai has hailed the election a “success”. He is favourite to top the poll but it was far from clear if he would get enough votes to win outright. He faces an unexpectedly strong challenge from former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah. Should he get a big enough share of the spoils a run-off election will take place, probably in October. But the outcome of this round of voting will not be known for at least two weeks. The election was seen as a crucial test of democracy and stability in Afghanistan. In as much as the Taliban failed to derail it as planned, it is being judged as a success by the West.