Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s Election: Democracy in Action?

Violence threatens to keep Karzai supporters at home on election day.

Violence threatens to keep voters at bay in the Afghanistan elections taking place on Aug. 20.  The above maps from the Washington Post show that violent incidents involving deaths among NATO, U.S., and Afghan military forces and local civilian casualties have primarily occurred in areas that Karzai carried in the previous election, especially the Pashtun provinces in the south.

Afghanistan’s electoral landscape includes 41 candidates.  In a positive turn of events, this pool includes two female contenders braving the wrath of the Taliban and the regressive policies of the current administration.  Shahla Atta, one of the female candidates, said at a recent interview from her campaign office:

“The people of Afghanistan are sick of this. Billions of dollars have been wasted,” she said in an interview at her campaign headquarters. “My grandchildren will get old before Karzai changes this, so the women should bring change.”

Amid the turmoil, Hamid Karzai retains the lead and has tried to stand at a distance from the political fray. Yet, he is never far from accusations of corruption and ties to warlords.  To battle these accusations Karzai appeared on a televised debate.  This from the BBC:

Mr Bashardost, an outspoken anti-corruption campaigner and former planning minister, who is seen as the third most-popular candidate, attacked the incumbent over his political allies.

“There are those who claim they are fighting warlords, but today warlords have the main role in their campaign, and [one] is their first vice-president. This is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” said Mr Bashardost.

Mr Karzai has chosen Mohammed Qasim Fahim, a former Tajik warlord, as his number two on the presidential ticket.

Ex-finance minister Mr Ghani also took aim at Mr Karzai’s alliances, saying: “I have not struck any deals with any warlord, have not given any ministry, governor’s position, or a part of Afghanistan to any of them.”

Correspondents say many Afghans and diplomats fear any backroom deals made in an effort to help Mr Karzai’s election campaign could empower old warlords and set back efforts to improve Afghanistan.

But Mr Karzai told his two rivals: “If for the national interest, for progress, for national unity, avoiding war… there is need for more such convenience, once again I will seek that. A thousand times I will do that.”

Many of the candidates have tapped into the rage of the Afghan citizen over the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians by unmanned predator drones. Earlier this month, a drone attack killed three children prompting protests in the streets and shouts of “Death to America. Death to Infidels.”  This really should make DC policymakers ask whether or not their militarisitc stance and use of drones is making us safer.

The election will be instrumental in determining the course of events in the coming months. There is a tentative timeline for results in the upcoming election which is being watched closely:  Within 48 hours of the Aug. 20 election, the first round of results should be tabulated. After a period to receive and resolve complaints, the Independent Election Commission will publish the final results of the election on Sept. 17.  If no one candidate receives over 50% of the vote, then a runoff election of the top two vote getters will take place on Oct. 1.

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