The Illusion of Afghan Democracy

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Afghan Elections, Democracy, Afghanistan,One of the main purpose of the US and allied forces in coming to Afghanistan was to “restore democracy” in Afghanistan and liberate the Afghans from the tyranny of Taliban. For all this, billions of dollars, efforts and energies have been tried to materialize in order to offer a stable, peaceful and democratic Afghanistan to the world.

After the fall of Taliban, Hamid Karzai was appointed initially by a national assembly and after that he managed to win two successive presidential elections in Afghanistan. Since the announcement of the 2014 US withdrawal, everybody wants a smooth transition of power, including all the regional states, NATO and United States. It was significant that the third presidential elections should pave the way for the country’s first-ever peaceful democratic transfer of power. Before the elections, there were many speculations about the success of the elections in true spirit. All the regional states were locked on to the Afghan elections, as the outcome was going to impact not just Afghanistan, but rather the whole region.

A brief overview of the presidential elections in Afghanistan, 2014 is provided for better understanding.  The first round of presidential elections was held in Afghanistan on 5 April 2014 and a second round held on 14 June. There were 11 candidates who ran for the presidential elections and by April 2014 three more candidates gave up the race in support of the remaining eight candidates. In the first round of the elections, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani emerged as the top contenders for the seat, as Abdullah Abdullah took a marginal lead from Ashraf Ghani. The second round of elections was held in less than three months on 14 June, after no candidate won more than 50% in the April poll.

According to Afghan official’s preliminary results, Ashraf GhaniAhmadzai was well in the lead for the presidency but no winner could be declared because millions of ballots were being audited for fraud. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and said ballots from about 7,000 more of the nearly 23,000 polling stations would be reviewed.

Ashraf Ghani took the lead in the preliminary results of the second-round vote, but Abdullah Abdullah declared himself the true winner, accusing of massive fraud and rigging in the elections. On the other hand, Ashraf Ghani claimed victory and said the election was marred by fraud. It sent shock waves in Washington, when Abdullah Abdullah threatened to declare his own government after the preliminary results was announced. US had to intervene, because it cannot afford to have an ethnically & regionally divided Afghanistan, that too after a decade of war that was meant to restore “democracy” in Afghanistan.

The tense standoff between the two top candidates sparked concerns and after two days intense negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a deal to audit all Afghan votes “Every single ballot that was cast will be audited,” Mr. Kerry said.

In a way, the United States tried to prevent Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power from collapsing by developing a consensus between the two top candidates. What appears is that, when a conflict situation surfaced, US had to mediate to resolve the issue. Afghanistan is definitely not a province/region of United States, and the immediate US intervention into the escalating conflict suggests that till now Afghanistan cannot resolve its own issues as an independent state. It seems that the collapse of the “Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power” was merely prevented by US.

Thousands of lives have been lost by the US and coalition forces in fighting the Taliban and restoring “democracy” in Afghanistan. Billions of dollars have been poured in from the world community to develop and rehabilitate the Afghan society and infrastructure. But still after a decade, a “smooth” transition is not in sight, besides the security and stability also gives a bleak picture. There seems to be a significant influence of Taliban or supporters of Taliban in Afghanistan, even a decade after US/Allies invasion the security situation is fragile and Afghan National Security Force seems quite inefficient in managing this threat.

All these situations are uncertain and unpredictable, but if this presidential election fails to ‘restore democracy’ and ‘unite Afghanistan’ then it means the core purpose of this decade long war lies in tatters. It seems that, the more Afghanistan’s election started well, the more they are ending badly. Apparently, it seems that problems and dilemmas will keep emerging in this Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election, as recently one of the main contenders accused a deputy of President Hamid Karzai of orchestrating fraud in favor of his rival. Just recently, the supporters of Abdullah Abdullah, released an audio recording they said was Vice President Mohammad KarimKhalili encouraging vote-rigging in favour of Ashraf Ghani, though Khalili’s and Ghani’s staff dismissed the recording as a fake. There are issues arising in the auditing of the votes and the agreement that was brokered by the US. Muhammad Mohaqeq, the Second Vice President of Abdullah Abdullah, has claimed that Ashraf GhaniAhmadzai’s campaign does not want to sign the agreement that was made between the two candidates over 22 days ago with the help of the U.S. and United Nations.

Already the assertions of massive fraud have overshadowed the outcome of the elections of the ‘first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan’s history’ just before the withdrawal of international troops later this year. The two candidates and their supporters have already started issuingconflicting statements and theblame game. Moreover, any further troubles may complicate the issue, ultimately resorting to hostility and further destabilization and division in the region.

The “promised” democracy, for which US made huge investments and sacrificed thousands of lives, is not very likely if the results of presidential elections are not accepted by any of the candidate. At the moment, there is a lack of a sustainable system which can guarantee smooth, sustainable and peaceful Afghanistan. Thepresent situation is very fragile in every respect, and if an irresolvable conflict arises after the declaration of the final presidential results, then once again Afghanistan will have to go through another civil war, full of chaos, destruction and violence. One can argue that if the phase “Civil War’ arises, “restoring democracy” remains a promise and security and stability remains an ‘assurity’in Afghanistan then all that has been spent was wasted and US undeniably will lose the ‘basic purpose’ of invading Afghanistan after 9/11.

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is researcher and a regular contributor at PKKH. She is a Human Rights, Youth and a Peace Activist and has done her MPhil in ‘Peace and Conflict Studies’ from NDU. She can be reached at ms.fortress@gmail.com and she tweets at @battlehawk_

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  1. It is amazing that after all that Afganistan has been through that they should stumble on something as basic as running an honest election?….this process is nothing more than the people choosing their own leader through a ballot…why is it so difficult to accomplish in this country?..is dishonesty and falsehood endemic in this area?…the result of the election benefits only Afganistan and no one else…are the people so backward and barbaric that the simple process of individuals voting and counting those votes honestly is too sophisticated a concept for them to understand and perform correctly?..it is hard to believe….

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