Afghanistan: Bets Are Off

Intrade, the online prediction market that's notorious for offering odds on many things political and getting pretty close to the outcomes, is offering action on who will win Afghanistan's second presidential election later this week, and no one's betting on it.

Intrade usually sees decent action in its political betting markets, but not on all events: over 3,750 people have bet on whether South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford will leave office by the end of 2009, but only 18 have bet on the New York City mayoral race. Germany's federal election has drawn about 100 bets, and Australia's elections have drawn only 15 on the UK-based site.

There's a chance Election Day in Afghanistan will be marked by Taliban violence and terrorist attacks on polling places. Maybe this is just too grave an event to be placing money on, especially given its importance to the future of Afghanistan and the safety of its citizens. Knowing gamblers, that might not be the case. The Afghan election is difficult to predict: polls have President Hamid Karzai as the favorite, but it's hard to say how reliable they are. Violence and government corruption threaten to put the election on shaky ground. It's probably not something I'd bet on, anyway.