Could Corruption be Good for Political Engagement?

Going through a series of interviews, particularly focusing on the increased role that ethnicity seemed to play in this round of voting, but I am more struck by an anecdote that one of our researchers told me about going to the clinic with his mother yesterday.  In the clinic there was both male and female waiting rooms.  His mother was in the female side with a group of fairly poor, uneducated women.  When a new patient came in, she congratulated the rest of the women in the room on the apparent victory of Ashraf Ghani (this was in a Pashtun area primarily supporting Ghani). One of the other women, however, immediately claimed that he was a crook and would only win by stuffing ballots.   A lengthy argument ensued about the relative merits of either candidate, their backgrounds historically and their potential role in corruption.  The argument got so heated that the doctor had to come out and tell people to keep it down.  My research laughed that in this relatively conservative area where women in the past were not even permitted to vote, suddenly you had a political debate going on at a high volume in the doctors office.

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Similarly, it might be counterintuitive (and could ultimately backfire), but in the period between campaigns, various civil society organizations have been extremely active in advocating for due process.  These groups that at other times don’t have as much to bind them together are being united by the desire for transparency and due process in the counting procedure.  They are receiving media attention, some of the key figures are becoming more recognizable and they are potentially gaining some of the organizational skills necessary to impact Afghan politics in the long run.  Who knows, a smooth vote with little contestation might not have given them the same platform.  For now, however, everyone is interested in politics, corruption and how these ballots will be counted.

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