With the run off date now set for June 14 there are several questions to start thinking about regarding how the next round of voting might be different from the first one. One of the key questions is how will the new, winner-take-all format effect the way that voters participate in the elections. Before, marginal candidates could run to make political statements or to attempt to mobilize political supporters to increase the perception of their influence, even if most people did not think that they would win. For example, Sayyaf’s limited, but still strong showing, coming in 4th was a clear reminder to many that he remains a political force in whatever the composition of the next government will be. With such marginalized candidates off the ballot, however, and a format that should declare one simple winner (though of course some sort of deal could undermine this), the math and logic of voting shifts. To begin thinking about this, we’re asking a series of questions, such as:
- What will voters for candidates that did not make the second round do? Will supporters of Rassoul, Sayyaf and others vote for the candidates that their preferred candidate endorsed or will they simply stay home?
- Will ethnicity be more of an issue now that there is one Pashtun and one Tajik (though with a Pashtun father) candidate? Before all the tickets were ethnically mixed, but particularly for Pashtuns looking to maintain control of the presidency from an ethic point of view, there is some possibility that we could see a re-ethnicization of Afghan politics.
- Similarly, with Abdullah widely perceived as representing the north, will we see more regionalized voting patterns?
- What will happen if it becomes increasingly clear that there is a single front runner? Will this incentivize the other to negotiate? In the previous round there was something to be gained by staying in the race even if you thought that you might lose. Now, technically speaking, there is no prize for second place (though we know with Afghan politics there is always room for negotiation, so perhaps something can be won…), how will this shape candidate attitudes?
With this questions and others hanging over the coming weeks, it remains to be seen if the election process can stay on track.