What if the recount doesn’t work?

So far, the media and international diplomats still seem optimistic, if frustrated with the current re-count in the Afghan presidential election. However, as the counting goes on, each day seems to present new challenges and while most seem to feel that there is no way that the Kerry deal could break down, it’s time for the international community to at least start considering worst case scenarios: particularly, what if the count fails to generate a new president and a credible transfer of power.

Part of these fears surely stems from the starting and stopping of the current counting process. (For an update on this see Pamela Constable’s piece here.) While the process is currently moving forward, it has been halted by so many disagreements that currently 2,700 boxes have been reviewed out of 23,000 and that several thousand has not even arrived in Kabul yet. (See the Pajhwok article here.) Every day that passes only makes accusations of fraud more credible and tensions continue to flare as monitors supporting competing candidates apparently got in a physical attercation outside of the building where the counting is going on.

Abdullah has repeated asked for certain “clarifications” and almost everyday brings new threats that he will pull out. And if the count keeps moving in Ghani’s favor, why not? He has already seen that the international community is willing to support a move away from the actual legal electoral procedures. Every time he threatens to pull out and then actually rejoins the process, he seems to gain a little more. Furthermore, reports that one of Karzai’s vice presidents has been pushing for people to support Ghani means that there is a threat that the government has now lost all credibility (see this NYT piece).

This is not to say that the current re-count will not work and that the Kerry deal will not hold, but it is time that people start to embrace the fact that there is a real possibility that this process will break down again. After optimistic reports of smooth counting during the first round, the corruption and fraud in the second round caught many in the international press and diplomats flat footed. Beginning to think about the options if the process breaks down again could be more than a useful intellectual exercise for all involved.

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