Can you throw away an election?

 

So amid the counting, posturing and allegations of fraud that are circling the days after the voting, one of the rumors that raises some intriguing questions is: What if the election gets thrown away?

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Image from a Facebook post by a Ghani supporter showing a commanding lead from a random set of stations

(And to be clear this is just a rumor, though one that I’ve heard from numerous people, so at least people are thinking about it.)

How can you throw away an election?  Essentially by having the top candidates make some sort of a power sharing deal.  Such a move would be in complete violation of the constitution, but there are indications from Afghans that such a violation might be acceptable, especially if it sets up a well-balanced coalition government.

The rumor right now is that Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who most believe are the two leading candidates, might be having such discussions.  Both of course deny this.  Ashraf Ghani said in an interview that he supported the constitutional process of counting the ballots and then declaring a winner, and the other major candidates have made similar statements.  If this is the case then and really candidates are simply waiting to see who has won, why is there so much post-election posturing?  (See for example Ghani’s ridiculous results website here, which claims he won Badakshan, a province that one Pashtun laughingly told me this morning is in “Abdullah’s bank.  Abdullah’s supporters and other have made similar moves by posting “official results” on Facebook pages.)  Such posturing does not help the official ballot count at all, but it Image0606does help fortify the position of candidates either in current negotiations or in attempts to reinforce their power in case they actually do end up losing the vote.

Ridiculous?  Perhaps, but there are precedents.  After the 2010 parliamentary elections Karzai set up a court to deal with corruption and end up tossing out a third of parliamentarians – completely unconstitutional and there were a few protests, but they fizzled pretty quickly.  Contrary to the popular of many Americans, it also seems like the US constitution might not have nailed it on the first try.

This does not necessarily mean that a deal is likely.  In fact, it’s probably far more likely that official results are declared, two candidates get set for a runoff and then the weaker negotiates to avoid losing out entirely (this is roughly what happened in 2009).  This is also unconstitutional, though less so, it would seem.

All this raises some intriguing questions: would Afghan voters stand for such a deal?  Would they stand for it if it created a coalition government representing all ethnic groups and providing the quickest route to political stability?  Would the international community support a government created this way?  Would they support it if the new president promised to instantly sign the Bilateral Security Agreement – probably the American government’s greatest desire right now?

Again, this may be nothing more than rumor, but as these rumors suggest, many Afghan voters are concerned that the votes they fought to cast on Saturday could be swept aside by more backroom negotiations.

 

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Waiting for the results

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