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German Press Review: A Mixed Outcome

Afghanistan's first free presidential elections, which were largely peaceful but clouded by allegations of tampering, dominated editorial comment in German newspapers on Monday.

The Braunschweiger Zeitung described the lack of attacks by Islamic fundamentalists during the voting as unexpected. The paper said the international peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan could "pat themselves on the shoulder."

The Märkische Allgemeine in Potsdam too was most impressed by the fact that "neither women nor men were so intimidated by the threats of the Taliban and other extremists, that they wouldn't vote." The paper hoped that even if there's an investigation into possible irregularities in the election, that it won't "upset faith in the election results."

Among those irregularities, some voting stations used the wrong ink to ensure nobody voted twice. But Berlin-based Der Tagesspiegel wrote that the ink problem could be seen" as a sign for the success of the peace process." The fact that "voters protested in the streets" about the ink "shows how seriously the Afghans took the election."

Another Berlin daily, Die Berliner Zeitung admitted that "nobody could have expected" a completely clean election. The paper added that "many provinces are going their own way, and feudal structures still rule there." Even interim president Hamid Karzai, the paper pointed out, who "looks so liberal on the outside and is the darling of the West, has been accused of a feudal style." But it's this mixture of liberalism and feudalism "that makes for his success," the paper wrote. If he wins the election "he gets legitimation as a representative of the Afghans" and with it "authority against the provincial warlords," the paper added.

The Financial Times Deutschland wrote however, that "the West has done a disservice to Karzai". That's because instead of investigating the election's legitimacy, Western diplomats "worked with Karzai's opponents this weekend, until they took back their protests." Now Karzai "has to live with the taint of a doubtful election result." The paper reminded Germany that "we were the ones that decreed democracy in Afghanistan" and "we can't buy out this responsibility by distributing ink, and hope that everything else will solve itself."

Düsseldorf-based Handelsblatt also said it envisaged a long period of Western engagement in Afghanistan. "It (the country) will still have to live for many years under NATO protection," it added.

The Märkische Oderzeitung from Frankfurt on the Oder was also less optimistic that Afghanistan is ready to hold on to peace. The paper said it didn't believe "the presidential elections will bring stability," because "the real problems haven't been solved: These are the power hungry warlords with their private armies, the restructuring Taliban, increasing al Qaeda activity and the cultivation of drugs, which is getting out of hand."

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