Following up from my Perfect Storm post. With Karzai’s agreement for a re-run of the election, we have now an imperfect storm. Questions: How will vote-rigging be avoided this time round? With the Taliban rampant, is it likely that we will see an increase in turnout?
The way Karzai acceded to a run-off doesn’t augur well. He was begrudging in the extreme and as the New York Times pointed out “you could almost hear his arm being twisted” by Secretary of State Clinton and other allied leaders, including Britain’s Gordon Brown and France’s Bernard Kouchner. Is Karzai likely to become the kind of credible partner President Obama says is necessary before agreeing to the dispatch of reinforcements to Afghanistan?
Even now Karzai seems reluctant to accept that nearly one-third of his first-round votes were stolen. Does anyone really think that vote-rigging of that magnitude is somehow not connected with Karzai himself?
And to stress the point I made above. How is this election going to be more credible and fair than the last? Election day is only three weeks away. Much of the fraud was also connected to a faulty registry of voters that international observers knew had problems with it months before the summer election. Is the register going to corrected? Of course, not as there is not enough time.
And how to ensure that the runoff is fair and credible when many of the poll-workers who were responsible for the fraud last time will be involved this time? They can’t all be sacked as there is not enough time to train replacements.
And when Karzai wins, which he is likely to by all accounts, will he see the errors of his way and transform himself into the leader people had high hopes he was many years ago? Again it is his begrudging acceptance now of the runoff that suggests that a re-elected Karzai will be no different from before. A priority for the next Afghan government must be to root out corruption, including the corruption within the Karzai family, notably his brother. After that basic services must be improved – that change could well be more important than the sending of additional troops. It has been the neglect of the economy and the country’s infrastructure by the allies and by the Afghan government that has so far doomed the democratic experiment in Afghanistan. Why should people believe democracy is a good thing when they have no reliable running water or electricity even in the capital of Kabul?
The failure of the Afghan government to deliver services along with widespread corruption has fueled the insurgency as much as the presence of foreign troops.