Fiercely independent Pashtun tribes in southeastern Afghanistan who voted en masse for Hamid Karzai in 2004 may not be such a bastion of support second time round, disappointed by poor security.
In a poor, rural country riven with ethnic rivalry where 70 per cent of the populace is illiterate, the ethnic and tribal vote carries huge weight.
Afghanistan, which will vote Thursday for a president for only the second time, has traditionally handled most of its politics through jirgas, or tribal councils, which command far more authority in the Pashtun tribal belt than national government officials.
When there are security threats, for example, volunteers are called in to defend the interests of their tribe.
In May, tribal elders from these provinces southeastern Paktya, Paktika and Khost decided to support Karzai, a fellow Pashtun, at the polls, said Mohammad Ali, from a tribal support network.
Some of this backing seems to have waned since then.
In Khost city market, Karzai still seems to galvanise those heading about their daily business in the run-up to Thursday's ballot.
"We will vote only for a Pashtun and Karzai is the best," said Pasarli Khan, a 45-year-old trader.