The day before Afghans go to the polling stations in the presidential run off and the majority of people I have spoken with (though certainly not all) in Kabul seem to think that Abdullah is ahead. Interestingly, a couple of my researchers who had traveled to both Herat and Jalalabad were far less convinced than another research I am working with who had only been working in Kabul about Abdullah’s victory. While most in Kabul feel that Abdullah has done a good job in securing endorsements (see the scorecard here), which should help him build on his lead, a poll released yesterday of about 2,000 Afghans, surprised many when it put Ghani in the lead (see the article here).
If Ghani is ahead, what are most of the people in Kabul missing? Here’s the case made by a friend and former government official who was convinced that Ghani would win. His argument has some persuasive logic to it:
Ghani is going to win because in the first round Abdullah received the maximum number of votes that he is able to receive (the argument here relies heavily on ethnicity, see our previous post on this). If most of the Tajiks and other non-Pashtun minorities already voted for Abdullah (with the exception of Uzbek votes for Ghani who has Dostum, the Uzbek commander as his running mate), then there are few votes left for him to pick up. The argument here is that Pashtun voters primarily want to see a Pashtun president (i.e. Ghani). While in the first round the Pashtun votes were split, primarily between Rassoul and Ghani, in the second round, my friend assures me, they will all go to Ghani. This is an interesting argument because it means even though Rassoul has pledged his support for Abdullah, most of his supporters will eventually vote for Ghani. It also means that all the endorsements that Abdullah picked up are more or less useless if they are not bringing voters with them (see our post on that here). I’m not sure that this is entirely true, but it is worth noting that Rassoul did not run a particularly inspiring campaign and it’s very feasible that his declaration of support for Abdullah does not necessarily translate into his voters moving smoothly to Abdullah’s side.
In addition to this, Ahmed Zia Massoud former running mate of Rassoul has pledged his support for Ghani. As one of the key Panjshiri Tajiks (and former brother of Ahmed Shah and son-in-law of Rabbani) his support could further divides Tajik vote, and it is certainly could be argued that Massoud is more likely to bring his votes to Ghani than Rassoul is likely to bring his votes to Abdullah.
Still, Abdullah had a rather commanding lead in round one. Is it possible that that lead has evaporated completely? I’m skeptical, but there is certainly a case to be made for Ghani having a strong showing tomorrow.