Growing Impatience

The Wall Street Journal’s article today highlights what they point to as growing support for Karzai remaining on in some role in perhaps an interim government position (see full article here).  On one level this is a sad turn, since, as we argued in earlier pieces, much of the initial turn out of voters was in support of moving past the Karzai era (see the full report).  What this demonstrates is how far the process has descended and how much distrust there is now between the candidates, but also between the voters and the two main candidates.  We heard a lot of voters in the lead up to the elections basically voice their support for “anyone who is not Karzai”.  Evidence of this was found in Zelmai Rassoul, supposedly Karzai’s favored candidates, abysmal showing (11%), which eliminated him from contention (though there are questions of course about Karzai’s lukewarm support of Rassoul and whether he is still simply playing a longer game).  If Karzai is regaining popular support, this can only be because of the lack of confidence in the current candidates (one of whom we are still assuming will become president at some point, meaning he certainly will not enter office with overwhelming support or legitimacy).

There’s been much debate over the merits of an interim government, but it needs to be made clear that what is in place right now actually is an interim government.  Karzai constitutionally was supposed to step down months ago, and depending upon your position on Karzai, either he manipulated the situation to hold onto power longer and reshape his long term position in national politics, or, for the good of the country he remained in office since the two major candidates were not capable of resolving their differences and the IEC was not politically strong enough to adjudicate them.  Karzai has already stepped into this role, but he could do more in it to encourage the negotiations between the candidates that will hopefully eventually resolve the situation.

In the meantime, the Washington Post over the weekend reported that the UN is considering pulling their staff out amid fears of violence (full article here).  This is not an unprecedented move and could be aimed primarily at mounting pressure on the two candidates, but it is still worrying.  The UN has been far more involved in political negotiations this time around than they have been in the past 5 years since the American surge, when US diplomats really moved front and center.  There was hope that this might be a turning point with the UN returning to a position as chief mediator between groups.  Removing the majority of UN officials would undermine this and potentially set the election process back further.  If the turmoil continues, Afghan elections might be considered so dangerous that the international community doesn’t feel like it can even oversee them.

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