Marching bravely forward to its first ever non-violent transition of power, Afghanistan is only days away from holding presidential elections on April 5, 2014. This will be its third presidential election, after the two elections in 2004 and 2009, since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. Although the shift in power signifies the increasing liberalization and growth of the Afghan political elite, the social transformation comes at a heavy price. Extremists and miscreants within urban and rural centers have joined forces to attack political parties and journalists in order to halt any kind of progress made in the electoral process. In spite of it all and more, Afghans continue inching closer to a democratic landmark in their national history.

It bears mentioning that a stable Afghanistan is not only good for its neighbors but crucial for regional peace and prosperity. This is not entirely lost on the incumbent government in Afghanistan either: Former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul maintained that the current regime is consolidating effort with competing political parties in addressing all issues related to a just and peaceful shift of power. It makes sense that the common masses in Afghanistan fear yet another failed attempt at democracy; the Karzai presidency is described as a disproportionally powerful government wielding a highly centralized political system that leaves very little chance for relatively smaller and newborn political candidates to compete fairly in.

Furthermore it would be incorrect to claim that the only dilemma Afghans face in the presidential election stems from the violence used by religious extremists. Given the richly diverse ethnic makeup of the country, many citizens also fear an imbalance of power between different ethnic groups, mainly the most represented people – the Pashtuns – against non-Pashtuns in the capital. Thus, the ethnic overtones carry a strong significance for the average Afghan in deciding who will be the next leader and who will be cast aside. Religion and ethnicity combined with socio-economic ranking spell for a heated competition in our north-western neighborhood.

At this moment, the atmosphere is heavy with reluctant compromise. Various political groups have forged alliances beyond ethnicities, regions and political ideologies in hopes to bring their motherland back on her feet. In 2009, according to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the United States government and Karzai attempted to manipulate the election outcome – and succeeded. This time, with very little patience on high rise, any double-dealing could lead to fatal consequences.