What will a runoff do to turnout?

While rumors of a deal continue to circulate, every day that passes seems to make it more likely that a runoff will actually happen to Abdullah and Ghani.  The possibility of a runoff raises numerous issues, but one of the more interesting is the question of will a runoff inspire a greater or lower turnout.

Arguments for a higher turnout:

Voters we have interviewed thus far seem fairly pleased the transparency of the election process.  Voting in a second round may be perceived as the final push to use democratic means to transition beyond the Karzai regime.

At this point Ghani and Abdullah have both spent so much time pushing for a second round, they are likely to have their supporters make a big push.

Finally, don’t forget that election day was cold and rainy.  Better weather and a warmer June could contribute to voter turnout as well.


Arguments for a lower turnout:

Only 70% votes were cast for Ghani and Abdullah.  With trailing candidates making few public statements in support of either candidate, it is possible that these 30% of voters will simply stay home.

Similarly, in the first round, many voters were also interested in the Provincial Council candidates which happened simultaneously.  Provincial Council candidates were instrumental in organizing transportation to the polls and getting voters mobilized.  They will be much less active this time around.

Furthermore, Ghani and Abdullah spent vast sums organizing and mobilizing voters.  While you can argue that now they are so close it would make sense to spend more, it is also clear that mounting a second round run, especially for Ghani who seems less likely to win, will be costly, particularly if he loses.

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