Afghanistan’s real presidential race has been a dull, somewhat depressing affair, with little viable opposition to incumbent Hamid Karzai—who one Western diplomat labeled “unpopular and unbeatable”—but the reality TV version is another story entirely, Time reports. The Candidate pits six young Afghans against each other in a show that blurs the line between entertainment and real politics. Each week the candidates debate real-world policy, and home viewers vote one off American Idol-style.
Candidates even get a budget to hold rallies, print posters, and otherwise run a real campaign. Producers hope the show will change politics in Afghanistan, where personality and connections matter more than policy. “These six candidates are better than the real candidates,” says the show’s presenter, “because they talk about platforms and have a vision for what needs to be done.” That said, when the first was voted off the show, he stormed out, shouting, "After this, it is clear that I must move ahead by force, not by talent."