Run-off elections pose ironic threat to Afghan democratic experiment

Khalid Sekander [Senior Social Scientist, US Army, Human Terrain Systems, NATO/ISAF HQ]: "Mr. Barakzai resigned from the Electoral Complaint Commission (ECC) because he views foreign interference as a negative consequence to the Afghan democratic experiment. Meanwhile, Peter Galbraith, former deputy of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), recently stated that UNAMA head Kal Eide is favorable to the Karzai government by covering-up allegations of voter fraud, primarily ghost voting sites and ballot stuffing. The final decision on the August 2009 presidential elections remains with the Independent Elections Commission (IEC), but the ECC is the body that will make the decision as to whether voter fraud existed.

The ECC is comprised of non-Afghans, and under the Elections Law it is these non-Afghans who will make the decision as to whether voter fraud existed in the August 2009 presidential elections. In case the ECC substantiates voter fraud, then those votes will not be counted. This means that Karzai's 54% lead will dwindle below 50%, thereby, forcing a presidential run-off.

The ECC is the international community's (IC) tool to bring pressure on the Karzai government to control systemic corruption rampant throughout the government. Most Afghans and some in the IC see the Afghan government as nothing more than a criminal syndicate. If the ECC decides that a run-off is necessary, then the integrity of the democratic experiment in Afghanistan may be at risk since most Afghans seem to indicate their unwillingness to vote in a presidential run-off for obvious reasons (lack of confidence in the government and Taliban intimidation).

The conundrum for the international community is that if the ECC uses voter fraud as a reason to pressure Karzai's government to eliminate corruption, then a run-off is very likely. However, the international community, ECC, et al., will also risk the failure of the democratic experiment in Afghanistan if it uses voter fraud as the underlying issue to pressure the government on anti-corruption measures since most Afghans will likely not go out to vote in the run-off for obvious security and political reasons."

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