President Hamid Karzai is not particularly popular, but as the incumbent he in a strong position, through networks of patronage, to get the support of local and regional king-makers such as warlords, chiefs of police, shuras (local councils), religious, tribal and ethnic leaders. What foreign reporting of elections in both Afghanistan and Iraq misses is the extent to which ordinary Afghans and Iraqis regard their governments as rackets run by political gangsters for their own ends. A common reason, I’ve heard expressed in both Baghdad and Kabul for supporting the incumbent leadership, is that it will have already stolen so much that its members have no need to steal more, while a new government will be equally rapacious but far hungrier.
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