Reuters reports (1 Nov) that Hamid Karzai’s main challenger in the 1st round of the Afghan Presidential election, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, has pulled out of the 2nd round due on 7 November 2009.
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah quit an election run-off on Sunday after accusing the government of not meeting his demands for a fair vote, but said he was not calling for a boycott.
Speaking to supporters and tribal elders in a huge tent in Kabul, Abdullah made no mention of any power-sharing deal with his rival, President Hamid Karzai, an indication that earlier talks to strike an accord had possibly foundered.
It’s difficult to know how the Afghan presidential election could have been less credible. That one-third of Hamid Karzai’s votes in the first round were thrown out is nothing short of astonishing. That the electoral system allowed such rorting is also astonishing. Will anyone know whether the declared winner of this election was actually preferred by more (potential) voters than the alternative? If there is no confidence in this, what credibility will the new President have?
Practically, one way forward would be a power-sharing arrangement between the declared winner and defeated candidate, if only to improve the credibility of the central government. Such arrangements have been established in a number of countries even they don’t work perfectly. However, the Reuters article suggests no evidence of a power-sharing arrangement.
What could result from the new Afghan President’s credibility being greatly reduced? It is conceivable that one endpoint of a severely reduced credibility is that government ends up being won by those who can best rort elections, which is thankfully more peaceful than government being won by those best at winning military campaigns. Hopefully, a more likely outcome is that Afghanis will have some input into government, even if it hardly resembles the input people have through free and fair elections.
Another question is how the credibility of this election will affect support for the war in Afghanistan against the Taleban. In the short term, it is not likely to have any direct effect, but in the long term it may reduce the propensity for the Afghani population, and the populations of countries sending troops, to support the war. Media reports already suggest diminished support in some countries for troops to be sent.
One further question is how the international community will respond to the results of the 2nd round. How will the Australian government, for instance, respond?
A final question is: will this election be a taste of Afghani democracy in the future, or will this poll be a genuine outlier? This is a key question.