Will Voting Blocs Hold?

If the person you wanted to win an election was eliminated and told you to vote for someone else, would you listen?  Or would you think about voting for someone else?  Or would you just stay at home?

This is a crucial question in predicting the outcome of the second round of voting.  If you believe that these voting blocs will hold and that, in particular, voters who voted for candidates who have been eliminated (i.e. everyone who came in third or lower) will vote in the second round for whomever their previous candidate endorsed, then Abdullah seems to have the election fairly wrapped up.  He has been endorsed publicly by the 3rd place candidate Rassoul and the 6th place candidate Sherzai, as well as most Afghan believing that the 4th place candidate Sayyaf is supporting him (his statements have been vague, but point to a candidate “who has stood with Afghanistan”, a clear reference to Abdullah’s role during the jihad years).  If those votes were simply transferred to Abdullah and added to his own, he would have over 4.5 million and would walk away with the election fairly easily.

There is reason to believe, however, that these blocs will not hold.  Rassoul may have declared his support for Abdullah, but his vice presidential candidate, Ahmed Zia Massoud, and many of his key supporters have declared their support for Ghani instead.  Similarly complicating the situation is the matter of ethnicity (something we’ll discuss in another post), those who supported Rassoul as the most powerful Durrani Pashtun candidate in the first round may be more likely to side with Ghani (a Pashtun, but not a Durrani) than with Abdullah (who is of mixed ethnicity, but generally thought of as Tajik).

In contrast with the fact that it seems that Rassoul’s voters may split, many think that Sayyaf’s supporters are less likely too.  For being a more minor candidate, who most thought had no chance of winning, he ran an effective campaign, making sure that all of his supporters were out in force on election day.  (Most feel that he ran primarily to secure himself a spot in the new government by demonstrating his political muscle.)  Even though Sayyaf has not come out and directly supported Abdullah, many believe that his campaign machine has been integrated rather effectively into Abdullah.  This is in sharp contrast with Rassoul’s rather rickety campaign that may deliver far fewer votes.

Another question is whether voters who voted for Ghani or Abdullah in the first round might be tempted to shift there vote in the second round.  This may sound unlikely, but several voters we have talked with have been displeased with the ways in which Abdullah has surrounded himself in the past month with many members of what is consider the old guard.  Similarly, supporters of Ghani may be put off by the increasingly belligerent rhetoric of his running mate, Dostum.  So we may see shifts even here, though perhaps only minor ones.

With only four days left before the polls, candidates have to worry about winning over new votes, but also keeping the ones that they have.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s