The presidential elections in Afghanistan are being hailed a success, despite reports of a poor turnout and widespread fraud. NATO, the United Nations and President Obama all welcomed the largely peaceful operation, although many polling stations failed to open after Taliban threats to attack anyone trying to vote. Turnout, especially in southern Helmand province, was reported to be low. One town recorded only 150 votes out of about 48,000 people registered to cast a ballot.President Hamid Karzai remains the favourite to win, but he may be forced into a second round in October. Although he is the best-known and most popular politician in Afghanistan, his government is seen as weak, corrupt and inefficient. The election was regarded as a referendum on his rule, and his main challenger was his one-time foreign minister. Abdullah Abdullah has already denounced government interference in the vote, whose results won’t be known for at least three weeks. At least 23 people died in incidents across the country, but the American-led coalition is desperate to claim a victory for democracy as polls show public support for the war is weakening.