Elections Can Work…Even as Inauguration Day Passes

Just a quick post to celebrate August 2, the day that the new president of Afghanistan was supposed to be sworn in.   For an update on some of the problems that are arising from the current unsettled state, particularly who will represent Afghanistan at the upcoming NATO summit, see this Reuters piece here.  Raising more concerns is Karzai’s recent declaration that results will be released by August 25 to end the continuing stalemate.  While we certainly support a speedy resolve to the current indecision, Karzai’s declaration is evidence of the continued interference of politicians who have no place in the counting process (Ghani and Abdullah are of course equally guilty).20140705_LDP002_0

Before we despair, however, and return to orientalist conclusions about the incompatibility of democracy and Islam (notions we dispel extensively in the case of Afghanistan in our book), we should take a moment to look at Indonesia.  While the comparison is far from perfect and elections there have been tense, it appears the country is about to undergo a smooth transfer of power with the candidate supported by Sukarno’s regime actually losing.  While there have been complaints of fraud, these are being handled by the appropriate electoral bodies and courts (as opposed to Afghanistan where there is political interference in the process).  It certainly helps that the margin of victory is over 6% meaning that only massive fraud will change things.  (There’s still room for problems as accusations of fraud are dealt with, but thus far the candidates appear to be respecting the process.  For more, see the Economist article here.)  The bigger lesson, however, is that electoral processes can work, even in countries with ethnic tensions, difficult histories (Indonesia is only 16 years removed from dictatorship) and a good deal of fraud.  Both Afghan politicians and international community representatives working with elections in Afghanistan would learn much by turning their eyes to the east to the patience and civility of election evidenced even amidst sloppy elections in Indonesia.

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