In Afghanistan, the election's legitimacy matters. But Western brains, in figuring out how to judge the election, should first decide whether, by Western standards, it's worth making a judgment. Dozens of our country's best analysts are in the country, watching. Others are following a well-developed Twitter stream. By Western standards, the election was a shanda: tens of thousands were denied the vote in Taliban controlled provinces, suicide bombers clashed with police officers on the streets of Kabul, police officers were killed by explosions in at least two cities, precincts were shut down for hours in many places, voters literally had to find their way through minefields to vote in Helmand, a Western group called the entire thing a fraud, etc. etc. etc.
If Western perception influences Afghan perception, it'll be a disaster for whoever wins. What standard Afghans use to deem the election as legitimate -- that's another story. In the United States, sporadic reports of irregularities mark a successful election experience. In Afghanistan, so long as the violence remains sporadic, so long as the lines of women at polling places are long (even though they vote in a different area than men), so long as the election authority pronounces relative calm and quiet, so long as sustained violence appears limited to a few places in Northern Afghanistan -- it seems as if, by the standards of an election in a war zone, it went as well as an Afghan might expect.