Campaigning in Afghanistan Involves Bribes, Gangland Politics and Murder

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But not all the money has come with such peaceful strings. Western officials say they have documented instances where armed groups loyal to one candidate have moved into villages, threatening residents if they refused to vote for the candidate. With little law enforcement capacity in the outskirts of the province, there's been little to stop them.

"This has been an extraordinarily hard fought race, " one Western official says. "Candidates are using every tool in their toolbox, and some are very sharp."

Gialani chose to defend herself, in part, by making a deal with Ismail Khan, the local warlord who endorsed her. Khan is a notorious abuser of women's rights; he has been known to send police to arrest women wearing clothes that were not conservative enough.

"I have a goal to achieve and I will get to my goal by whatever means that I can," Gialani says when challenged about the Khan endorsement. "We have no choice. Even if the person who killed my colleague can help achieve our goals, we have to compromise with him."

Compromise and conflict dominate this election. Hours after that interview, a bomb exploded outside the Herat sports stadium, where a concert had just been held by Farhad Daryaa, a famous Afghan singer and a United Nations ambassador of peace.

For Farid, the bombs and the strange bedfellows are something she has learned to put up with.

"We have to be brave and we have to accept any risks that we are going to have," she says. "There's a lot of obstacles and a lot of problems that we have. But I am fighting to reach our goals."

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