Afghan elections: 7th day of positivity or deepening mistrust?

Aside from the major tasks set out for this government-to-be, gaining the trust of this politically and culturally polarized community should be of utmost significance

Afghan elections:  7th day of positivity or deepening mistrust?

Halima Islam

As Afghanistan lunges into the 6th day of the post- vote period, it’s citizens remain in anticipation of the announcement of the victor whose challenging task will not be only to cure Afghanistan’s ailing economy but to prove to the international and regional powers that it can lead the fight against the Taliban without the US involvement.

On the day:

Long queues of defiant Afghani citizens poured into 6,400 registered polling stations despite the Taliban threats on Saturday and many illustrated this moment to be a defining one in Afghanistan’s turbulent history.  These presidential and provincial council elections demonstrate the first democratic and peaceful transfer of power. On the day an optimistic Helena Malikyar describes the scenes by saying “the air was filled with enthusiasm, hope and a kind of New Year’s day after the fall of the Taliban. 12 years later, however, there was an added aura of determination and defiance.”  An estimated figure of 7 million citizens of which 35% were female not onlyrejected the Taliban narrative of the elections but celebrated the increase in the voter’s numbers of by approximately 3 million since the previous chaotic 2009 elections.

How fair and how free?

As the results in 2009 were widely known to have been tainted resulting in the second term of the current president, Hamid Karzai-who has been now been barred from re-electing into Afghan politics- Afghans remain sceptical of the ballot counts. This begs the question of how exactly fair and free these elections are and whether the western presence since 2001 has effectively achieved changing the mind-set of the Afghans.

Results are to be announced in the coming two weeks which will prove to be highly critical as complaints numbering 1200 alone were registered with the ECC within 24 hours of the closing of the polling stations, mostly pertaining to shortages of ballot papers, candidate intimidation and influence, late opening of the centres etc. Despite the fact that Afghanistan has progressed in it’s electoral process since 2009 and Karzai will be the first leader to step down in accordance to the democratic procedure depicted by the West, these fraudulent measures are likely to deepen the political mistrust amongst the masses which can end in potential violence as well. Not only that, but many analysts have prematurely deduced that this contest could lead to a second round of elections next month.

By Wednesday, the 4th day into the critical weeks before the announcements of the results, the watchdog Free and Fair Election Foundation of Aghanistan (FEFA) has already released figures of 11,000 incidents pertaining to fraud, irregularities, closure of polling stations etc during Saturday. Even though this rounded figure is still less than that of 2009’s, violation of the law can dampen the positive, enthusiastic and defiant mood of the voters that came out to vote on Saturday.

The Taliban vote or disrupt?

Amidst the uncertainty surrounding the 2014 April Presidential elections, the armed opposition’s stance- composed largely of the Taliban- has been brought to the surface. Although they have begun their anti-election campaign through violence, much disrupt as not been caused during the vote process. One faction within the Taliban has agreed to negotiate a future peace-deal with presidential candidates such as Zalmai Rassoul. The other two however stand on opposing ends, one in pursuit of a military victory and discarding the negotiation process completely and the latter supporting the winning candidate based on ethnic loyalty.

The other presidential candidates such as Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have gained the support of the Taliban in two varying ways. The former being popular amongst the militarist Taliban-who Abdullah bitterly opposes- has lead them to believe that if the doctor  was to be elected as president, would be opposed by the Pashtuns who would then aid the Talibans in the military campaign against the government.

Taliban in the eastern side of Afghanistan are in favour of Ghani’s win as they share Pashtun ethnicity and based on that loyalty, will then support the peace-deal talks.

The victor VS the reactionary contestants: Bitter opposition or support?

Even though the result of the winning candidate is still weeks from now, contenders have started to take the lead. Some analysts have said that Abdullah is already is ahead in some parts of Kabul whereas some reports hail Ghani.  The premature results have prompted the other candidates to accuse the electoral vote counts to have been rigged. This brings to the forefront the question of what will happen if a run-off between the first two candidates is to take place. The three candidates mentioned above all converge on the need to improve the country’s security and economic situation. Accusations of fraud and little transparency are expected to be filed when the winning candidate is announced. However, once and if things settle, there is a need for the opposition to support the announced president as hopeful Afghanis will be counting on the new government to start working towards the country’s betterment straight away. In that case, Afghanistan cannot afford the contestants to fragment once the results are announced.

Preliminary task already set for the government-to -be:

Many are of the opinion that rigging and fraudulent measures are to be expected in this initial power give-away as this power transfer is a first of its kind in Afghanistan’s history. Even though the western presence in the country for 12 years may have increased the awareness of democratic systems, the task lies in whether the government- to- be can align the Afghan masses in a system that merges their own traditional culture into an Afghanistan that now has a decreasing number of British and American military troops and therefore subsequent influence as well. Although the technical know-how of the way democracy works is conveyed by the west-which has induced an increase in popularity- the vast majority of Afghani citizens, a number as large as 80 percent still par take in the traditional systems of the councils of Shurah and Jirgahs- a system, deeply embedded in the Afghan culture for quite some time.

Aside from the major tasks set out for this government-to-be, gaining the trust of this politically and culturally polarized community should be of utmost significance.

Last Mod: 13 Nisan 2014, 11:04
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