The Price of Legitimacy

afghanistan-pol-e-charkiPrison-newslandingWith less than a week before the potential inauguration, diplomats and the candidates are scrambling to make a deal that will circumvent at least some of the flaws with the current process.  It bears thinking about at this stage, what the price tag of such a deal could be, both in economic terms and in terms of legitimacy.  Whoever the new president will be, will be entering office on incredibly shaky terms.  On one hand deals will have been worked out with the opposing candidate and other political leaders that will ensure them political positions, particularly ministries.  Others will potentially have been paid off in cash it seems.  Pleasing some of the top people in the opposing camp may be possible, but there will be a long line of other leaders looking for positions and hands out.  How far will this go down?

A recent conversation with a researcher who had spent some time interviewing at Puli Charkhi, the central prison in Kabul, revealed some troubling opinions.  The researcher said that multiple prisoners were discussing with him the upside to the current political chaos.  Their senses is that in order to win support whoever the incoming president is will release a large number of prisoners in order to win additional support (Karzai has done this several times during his presidency).  If the idea of the new president releasing criminals is bad, think about some of the deals that may need to be arranged with insurgent groups and even militias that currently support the regime.

All of these issues will divide the new government and are likely to be particularly unappealing to a figure like Ghani who has a history of institutional reform.  With only some of the key positions in his control and with him (or Abdullah in a similar position) spending vast amounts of political capital to simply secure the position of president, either one will inherent a government that is even more divided and ineffective than the current one.  The quicker the current crisis is resolved the better, but every day that passes will force the new government to spend even more on legitimacy.

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