THE elections in Afghanistan have ended with spokesmen for both incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah claiming a first-round victory, though even official preliminary results are not yet available, with a second round between the top two candidates to be held probably in early October, two weeks after the final results are officially declared on September 17. The interest in the election at the moment is focused on whether President Karzai obtains the 50 percent-plus needed to ensure that there is no second round, as when he was first elected five years ago. However, even though the election is not exactly fair, with too many claims of fake voter registrations and actual ballot stuffing to ignore, all Afghanistan's foreign supporters want the election to succeed, despite the violence by the Taliban that kept turnout at about 50 percent, much lower than the election which President Karzai won. One of the more prominent features of the current poll has been ethnicity. While Mr Abdullah himself is a Tajik, President Karzai has chosen a prominent Tajik, former Defence Minister Fahim, as his running mate. This comes after an administration in which, with American support, Tajiks have taken over the commanding heights of the Afghan government, and President Karzai merely serves as its Pashtun face. Though the Taliban were unable to disrupt the election by violence, they did play this particular ethnic card in the run-up to the poll, and even now, a second round between President Karzai and Mr Abdullah would see an upsurge in ethnic tensions the country's foreign backers would not want to see. President Karzai's constant sniping at Pakistan does not seem to have earned him the right to win the election by cheating. Mr Abdullah's supporters, if he loses, will echo the protests at the Iranian election results. That would not only reflect badly on the election process, but would undermine the legitimacy of the entire process so far.