Article published on the 2009-10-24 Latest update 2009-10-24 13:22 TU
Election workers load ballot boxes onto a truck to be transported to the provinces, at a warehouse in Kabul
"Anyone who participates and gets hurt will be responsible for their own losses," a Taliban statement declared, saying that "no one should participate in this American process".
"They probably want to make sure that everyone understands that they are still there, and that they are a force to be reckoned with," says Kabul-based analyst Martine van Bijlert. "It’s quite likely that a lot of voters will stay at home anyway and then, after that, they can claim that it’s because of their call for a boycott."
Almost 200 violent incidents were recorded during the first round of the election in August, including the amputation of fingers marked with the ink as proof of voting and rocket and grenade attacks on polling stations.
International military chiefs say that they can ensure that the second round will be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere. But the Taliban boycott call threatens to keep turnout down, possibly below the 40 per cent official figure for August.
Nato foreign ministers, meeting in Bratislava on Friday, heard an assessment of security from American chief of the international force in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal.
Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Friday that there will be less fraud and security will be better.
"One, there are only two candidates. Two, there's the experience factor. Three, the international community, including the forces under General McChrystal's command, are going to go all out to help make this a success."
UN envoy Kai Eide also promised less malpractice.
"There’s quite a bit of disaffection and disillusion about the process," says van Bijlert.
She blames the widespread fraud in the first round and scepticism about the effectiveness of voting.
"There was a feeling that the elections were accountable to international actors, and also people felt that they didn’t really have a choice. That will be more the case now, because there are only two candidates they can choose from, and for a lot of people, that’s not really a real choice."
She predicts a "messy election".
"I just hope that the UN and the other international actors are ready to deal with it, instead of hoping that it will be better."
The Indepedent Election Commission has begun sending voting materials to the polling stations across the country. The ballot papers carry just two names this time - incumbent Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.
There is still speculation that the two could agree to form a coalition government, possibly with reduced powers for the presidency.
But Abdullah on Friday said that he would not even join a Karzai government after the run-off if he is defeated.
He told CNN TV that he has "absolutely no interest in such a scenario".