Thoughts on a Disputed Outcome (and who benefits from it)

With rumors of increased fraud and the fact that it is becoming more likely that Ghani has improved on his numbers from the first round, it is also becoming more likely the eventual results of the run off will be disputed.  One of the concerns here is that while this would be bad for Afghan voters and the international community in Afghanistan, it could actually be good for many in the Afghan political elite.  Why?

Well, on the side of Afghan voters and the international community, the issue seems fairly clear.  A disputed outcome will delay the set up of the new government.  The long election process has already put a lot of business plans on hold as businessmen and merchants try to figure out what the new composition of the government will be.  Similarly, this makes international aid programs stall as embassies wait to see who the new ministers will be.  Beyond this, a disputed outcome is likely to encourage localized violence between disputing groups which even when potentially unrelated to the insurgency could cause more instability.

But why would some of the elites want a disputed outcome?  Well, on one level, if the result is close, that will allow whichever candidate lost to claim that really they should have won.  This will allow them to demand increased representation in the new government for their allies.  Similarly, the longer the negotiation process continues, the more resources and positions that leaders can demand for their support.  Furthermore, a figure like Karzai, stands to gain very little from a quick, transparent declaration of one of the candidates as the legitimate new president.  If there is significant strife, however, Karzai’s role becomes pivotal.  In exchange for acting as a mediator, he will suddenly be in a much better position to ensure that his allies will be well positioned in the new government.  A similar logic goes for numerous other national political figures.

There sometimes seems to be the assumption in the international community that when the candidates complain about fraud and corruption that they simply want a transparent election.  Really, however, it bears keeping in mind that a lot of people are currently benefiting from the disputes swirling around the current counting process.

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