Afghanistan: Democracy in Action? Pt. 2

 In Afghanistan

Millions of Afghans braved a violent and unstable election environment to cast a vote for their government of choice last week.  Escalating violence in the preceding weeks and disenchantment with politics as usual resulted in a lower turnout than in 2004.  In particular, fewer women turned out to the polls than in previous elections, a sad sign that the Taliban’s intimidation tactics may have been partially successful.

Until the official election results are published on Sept. 17, victory is in the eye of the candidate.  Today, the Afghan Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal proclaimed:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai won last week’s presidential election in a single round with about 68 percent of the vote.

On Friday, Abdullah Abdullah, looking at “some extremely preliminary tallies,” proclaimed victory for himself.

Zekria Barakzai, deputy head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), is quoted in a recent Reuters piece expressing the long road ahead:

We cannot confirm any claims by campaigning managers. It’s the job of the election commission to declare the results. They should be patient.

The question of legitimacy will play out in the next couple of weeks. President Obama, the secretaries of the U.N. and NATO, and even Pakistan called the elections a success.

Much of America’s future strategy and success depends on what happens and has happened in the last weeks with the Afghanistan election. A credible result will grant a sense of legitimacy to a transitioning government that faces grave domestic issues. The quickness with American officials declared the elections a success proves the central role it played in legitimizing their own Afghan policies. It remains to be seen in the weeks and months ahead how the outcome of the election will influence decisions like whether or not more US troops are requested in Afghanistan.

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