The Recount starts…and stops…and starts…and…

The deal between Ghani and Abdullah facilitated by John Kerry has dampened tensions between the supporters of both candidates somewhat, but already there appear to be cracks in it.  The recounting has been halted twice, once after complaints by Abdullah’s team and most recently in an effort to “train” monitors from both teams.  (Questions abound here, such as why weren’t they trained before….)  With only about a third of the ballots even in Kabul right now, it is difficult to envision this situation resolved any time soon.  The fact that both candidates still seem content halting the process whenever it suits them also does not bode well.  The inauguration of the new president has already been pushed back from its Aug 2 date and it is not surprising that no new date has been set, but this is indicative of the suspended state of animation that Afghan politics will be in as long as the recount drags out.  Each day further damages the economy.

More vexing for those interested in the future of democracy in Afghanistan, however, is probably the lack of transparency around the entire deal.  Yesterday several MPs began clamoring for more details about it  (See the TOLO article here) and they have a right to be worried.  The fact is that is unclear what a “national unity” government might look like, how the constitution could be changed in order to allow for such a shift, what role either of the candidates will have in it and would the timeline for all this might be.  These issues have clearly been discussed by Kerry and the candidates, but these closed door negotiations have essentially removed power further from the Afghan voters.  (Also by not making the details more public, it is more difficult to hold the candidates accountable.)  Already the votes have been compromised by fraud by candidate supporters, incompetency and bias by the electoral bodies and violence by the Taliban.  Allowing the flawed vote to be replaced by a behind the scenes deal only further alienates them.  The fact that this is all being done with some sort of stamp of approval by the US State Department is only more concerning.

The Afghan voters (and the American tax payers who paid for the polls) deserve better.

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