With many breathing a sign of relief as the Abdullah and Ghani have announced a still unspecified power sharing arrangement, the rather surreal Alice in Wonderland approach to elections continues. On Saturday a deal was announced between Abdullah and Ghani which made Ghani president and Abdullah was given a Chief Executive position. It was only after this deal was announced at a press conference with the two candidates that the ‘Independent’ Election Commission announced that Ghani had won the election (for more see this NYT article here). During the announcement, however, no results were released. Nor were final number of votes invalidated or total number of votes casts mentioned. This is in sharp contrast with earlier rounds of voting when the IEC has released detailed results regarding polling station numbers even before the results were finalized.
As a result, it is clear that part of the deal was that the results wouldbe suppressed. This is clearly due to Abdullah’s concern about what it may reflect about the strength of his allies (current rumors are that he trailed in the final count by 800,000, but that is not verified). American officials have thus far cautiously praised the results, as have other international officials. Afghan civil society leaders have not been as optimistic and the New York Times quoted FEFA chair (and AREU head) Nader Nadery saying: “Many people risked their lives to vote, some lost their lives, and this is a very bad precedent; to persuade people to come back and vote again will be very hard.” As we argued with the original John Kerry deal, which was able to avert short term problems, but eventually led to three months of turmoil, it is in the best interest of the international community to support genuine democratic growth in Afghanistan instead of managing short term crisis after short term crisis. This is why if the international community has any hope for a legitimate and democratic government in Afghanistan it needs to encourage the IEC to release the final vote counts. Then, if Ghani and Abdullah want to make deals which reshape the government (for the better it does seem), that is fine. But right now the order is wrong and this does not seem to be good news for the future of democracy in Afghanistan. International diplomats deserve a hand for the work they have done thus far, including countless meetings with the candidates, but leaving the process as it is is not good enough for the voters that lined up to vote twice, many months ago. They deserve to know the actual outcome of the election. For more on the future of elections see Why the Results Matter.